Billionaire and mega-donor to Trump Peter Thiel praises Florida governor Ron DeSantis as ‘the best of governors’ for offering ‘a real alternative to California’

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Billionaire investor Peter Thiel (L) praised Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) speaking at the National Conservatism Conference.J. Scott Applewhite/TBEN Photo and Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

  • Thiel said Republicans should do more than point out problems in liberal states like California.

  • Of all the GOP governors, DeSantis was the one who got it right, Thiel said.

  • But he added that he was concerned about rising house prices in the Sunshine State.

AVENTURA, Florida — Billionaire investor Peter Thiel said on Sunday he feared Republicans were too focused on bashing liberal states like California when they should instead offer a “positive agenda” for the party’s future.

In a speech at the National Conservatism Conference, Thiel painted a bleak picture of his home state of California, saying that at least one governor was handling alternative policy making appropriately: Ron DeSantis of Florida.

“Florida DeSantis is probably the best of the governors when it comes to offering a true alternative to California,” said Thiel, speaking to a crowd of attendees at the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort.

But Thiel also had an important disclaimer, saying he was concerned about how expensive Florida housing had become. Thiel said he bought an $18 million house in Miami in 2020 that was now worth about $35 million. One test for the state’s policy, he said, would be whether housing prices are falling.

“The fact that real estate in Florida or Texas has melted in the last two or three years is not proof that you can succeed and build a better model than California,” he said. “I’m afraid that’s proof you’re going to look like California.”

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House prices are one of the main issues Democrats are using against DeSantis as he seeks re-election in November. The state has faced an influx of residents since the COVID-19 pandemic, contributing to rising costs.

As governor, DeSantis has passed numerous policies that have angered the left, including policies on abortion, voting rights and limiting the way race, gender and sexuality are discussed in schools.

DeSantis also faced his fair share of battles with California. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom has criticized the governor and placed ads attacking him in Florida. The dispute sparked speculation that the two could potentially face each other in the 2024 presidential race if they both decide to run for their respective parties’ nominations.

Thiel co-founded PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook, the company now known as Meta. He was one of the most vocal supporters of former President Donald Trump and has criticized Silicon Valley, which moved to Los Angeles in 2018.

During his remarks on Sunday, Thiel said his “intuition” told him that Republicans’ “nihilistic denial” would not be enough to create an alternative vision of growth.

“The temptation on our part will always be that we just have to say we’re not California,” he said. “It’s just such an ugly picture, the homeless poop, people pooping everywhere, it’s the ridiculous rat infested apartments that no longer work, it’s the madness waking up, there’s so much it feels like you’re fishing in a barrel. It’s so easy, so ridiculous to denounce.”

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The question Republicans should be asking, he said, was, “How can we concretely provide a 21st century vision that’s better than California?”

Bashing California “maybe enough to win in the meantime in ’22,” said Thiel, “maybe enough to win in ’24. But we want to have more of a program-positive vision, something to be credible.”

Expressing concern about the 2022 cycle, Thiel said Republicans did not fare as well as they did during the Tea Party swell in 2010, or in 1994 when then-minority whip Newt Gingrich presented the GOP agenda in the form of the Contract for America.

Thiel has not named any specific senators, but Senate leader Mitch McConnell has not offered an agenda for the party ahead of the 2022 midterms, while Florida National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Rick Scott, in the form of an “11-point Plan to save America.”

Several news articles have indicated that there is a rift between the two GOP leaders. But Scott accused the media in a letter to supporters of trying to divide and defeat Republicans.

Florida Republican Chief Executive Ron DeSantis has smashed Democratic administration Gavin Newsom's record in California.

Florida Republican Chief Executive Ron DeSantis has smashed Democratic administration Gavin Newsom’s record in California.Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

DeSantis did not receive campaign donation from Thiel, data shows

As of May 2022, Thiel had an estimated net worth of $7.19 billion and was ranked 297th in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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Though Thiel praised DeSantis on Sunday, he has not given in to the governor’s reelection efforts, according to a disclosure paper from his political action committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, and campaign finance disclosures from the State Division of Elections. The DeSantis campaign declined to comment on campaign donations.

DeSantis has become one of the most famous Republicans in America, raising more than $140 million for his reelection bid, an extraordinary amount for a governor’s race. The money puts him on track to break a national fundraising record.

GOP Senate candidates and Thiel protégés Blake Masters and JD Vance each received $15 million. Thiel was also one of Trump’s largest donors when he ran in 2016, and this cycle has donated to at least 14 other MAGA-aligned House and Senate candidates. Thiel, who is openly gay, has also donated to politicians who support anti-LGBTQ rights policies.

Asked by Insider at NatCon whether Thiel should donate to DeSantis’ campaign, Masters replied, “Of course.”

In mid-August, DeSantis campaigned with Masters and GOP governor candidate Kari Lake in Arizona. Masters said he hadn’t caught up with DeSantis at the conference yet — the governor isn’t expected to speak until Sunday evening.

“I think he’s great,” Masters said when asked about the impact DeSantis had on the Republican Party. But Masters didn’t directly answer the question of whether he thought DeSantis should run for president in 2024.

“We’ll see what he does,” Masters said.

Read the original article on Business Insider