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MANCHESTER, N.H. — During a visit to New Hampshire, Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he would be a commander in chief who unreservedly supports allies, such as Israel, and takes dramatic steps to oppose groups harming Americans.
"We are being invaded by these cartels," referring to drug traffickers in Mexico, DeSantis said during an Oct. 13 address at the "Politics & Eggs" speaker series at St. Anselm College in Manchester. "They are bringing poison in and they're killing our people. So, as commander in chief, you have the right to respond when American lives are being taken"
DeSantis also criticized the field’s front-runner, former President Donald Trump, for missing the GOP’s First in the Nation two-day summit sponsored by the New Hampshire Republican Party. All other candidates attended.
"Republicans need to stop making excuses," DeSantis said. "We're not going to get a mulligan on the 2024 election. We're either going to get the job done, we're going to be able to chart a better path for this country, or we're going to continue to dig ourselves deeper and deeper into a hole."
If Trump wins the nomination, DeSantis said, "I think you're gonna see down-ballot effects that are going to make holding the House very difficult."
DeSantis also said Trump shouldn’t be criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for Israeli security lapses in the wake of the Hamas attacks.
With Israel now at war against Hamas in Gaza, "that is not how you treat an ally," DeSantis said. "It's not how I would treat an ally."
Here are a few things DeSantis said in Manchester, along with our fact-checks.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses an audience at St. Anselm College on Oct. 13, 2023, as part of the "Politics & Eggs" speaker series. (Louis Jacobson/PolitiFact)
Inflation "was government-induced by (Joe Biden’s) response to COVID, which was a total disaster, by borrowing and printing trillions and trillions of dollars, acting like that wasn't going to cause disruptions in the economy."
Biden’s economic response accelerated inflation, but there were other factors, too.
Economists say the Biden-backed 2021 American Rescue Plan Act worsened inflation by putting more money in Americans’ hands after the pandemic began to wane; this meant too much money was chasing too few goods.
However, COVID-19-related labor market disruptions and supply-chain difficulties are what initially drove up inflation. The war in Ukraine, which started in February 2022, led to a spike in gasoline prices and increased inflation, too.
In Florida, "we have the second lowest per-capita tax burden in the entire country."
There are different ways of calculating a state’s tax burden. One ranking that backs up DeSantis’ assertion was conducted by USAFacts, a nonprofit organization that reports on government data. Using 2020 data, the organization ranked Florida as the second-lowest tax burden state.
One Florida’s tax rates are relatively low, but a leading measurement of state-by-state tax burdens — published annually by the Tax Foundation — ranked Florida as having the 11th-lowest tax burden of any state. Alaska and Wyoming ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.
Regardless of the method, Florida ranks relatively low for its tax burden in the commonly cited studies.
"I think (Florida is) the only state in the country that actually had a decline in overdose deaths outright."
We asked DeSantis’campaign where he got the data, but did not hear back.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida had a slight increase in overall overdose deaths between 2020 and 2021, from 7,231 to 7,827.
The large majority of states also saw increases in the same period, with the exception of Hawaii and Maryland, which saw nominal decreases; and Nebraska, which showed the same figure.
"We had a situation in Florida, a family was renting an Airbnb unit, and an 18-month-old baby was crawling on the carpet. There happened to be residue from fentanyl from the previous tenant, and the baby died just by coming in contact with that fentanyl."
That’s what a March lawsuit alleges.
Enora Lavenir, a 19-month-old visiting Wellington, Florida, died Aug. 7, 2021, at an Airbnb rental where her family was staying.
The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office determined that the toddler died of acute fentanyl toxicity, NBC News reported when the lawsuit was filed. The family, which was visiting from France, filed a wrongful death lawsuit that said the Florida property had a history of being used for parties.
NBC News reported that a sheriff’s incident report showed investigators interviewed the prior renter, who said cocaine and marijuana were used during his stay, but not fentanyl. The sheriff’s office said the death is listed as accidental and the case is closed.
Attorneys for the prior renter and the property owner, who were named in the suit, told NBC they denied fault, alleging negligence by the parents or others who were at the property, such as cleaners.
Florida "finished third and fourth, respectively, in fourth grade reading and fourth grade math."
This is accurate, according to the 2022 results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Known as the nation’s report card, the NAEP tests fourth and eighth graders on key academic subjects. The 2022 report, the first since the COVID-19 pandemic, found that Florida’s fourth graders placed third and fourth in the U.S. in average scores for reading and math.
DeSantis said the results are because his administration is "fully invested in parental choice." However, the fuller picture shows that some of these test results have worsened since he’s been governor, while others stayed the same.
In 2017, the year before DeSantis won his first term, Florida’s fourth graders had an average reading score of 228. In 2019, that dropped to 225, where it remained in the 2022 assessment. The NAEP notes that changes above or below 0.05 are "statistically significant." These scores are considered below "proficiency" — but are above the national average, which dipped to 216 in 2022.
For math, Florida fourth graders in 2017 had an average score of 246. This stayed the same in 2019, but dropped to 241 in 2022. These levels are also considered below proficiency, but are higher than the national average.
In all, Florida fared better than many other states. The report showed significant declines in math and reading proficiency that affected students in every state and region, with academic progress believed to be largely derailed over disruptions from the pandemic.
"Florida currently ranks No. 1 for economy by CNBC. No. 1 for education by U.S. News & World Report."
He’s right about both.
In July, CNBC ranked Florida first in states that are "running the best economies."
U.S. News & World Report ranked Florida No. 1 for education overall, with higher education ranking first and pre-kindergarten to 12th grade ranking 14th.
The higher education rankings were based on several factors, including the share of citizens holding college degrees, college graduation rates, the cost of in-state tuition and fees and the burden of student debt.
PolitiFact Copy Chief Matthew Crowley contributed to this report.
CORRECTION, Oct. 16, 2023: This story has been updated to correct the U.S. News & World Report ranking for Florida on education.
Please see sources linked in article.