A lot of names in politics are hard to say. Pete Buttigieg sold T-shirts to supporters of his 2020 presidential campaign that had instructions on how to pronounce his Maltese surname. This year in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court election, Janet Protasiewicz ran ads showing people mangling her Polish name.
But it’s hard to recall a prominent American politician who has offered alternate pronunciations of his or her own name before Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.
When he was sworn in for a second term as governor in January, he said, “I, Ron Deh-Santis.” This month, he began a video for the National Day of Prayer by saying, “I’m Gov. Ron Dee-Santis.”
As he rolled out his campaign on Wednesday with a glitchy Twitter appearance and an interview on Fox News, he twice invited supporters to visit “Ron Deh-Santis dot com.” But in his first campaign video, he introduced himself by saying, “I’m Ron Dee-Santis.”
Mr. DeSantis grew up and began his career in 2012 calling himself Ron Dee-Santis, which a campaign spokesman told The Tampa Bay Times in 2018 was how he preferred to say it. But in 2016, when he was in Congress, Mr. DeSantis said his name Deh-Santis in a video for the House Oversight Committee. His campaign did not respond to requests for comment this week.
By late last year, Mr. DeSantis was alternating back and forth on the long and short vowel sounds in his last name. For a video wishing Indian Americans “a happy Diwali,” he said Dee-Santis. A few weeks later, it was Deh-Santis in his Thanksgiving message.
It’s worth noting that few others say Dee-Santis. Representative Rich McCormick of Georgia, who endorsed the Florida governor on Tuesday, said Deh-Santis. So did a Democratic group attacking him on the eve of his presidential announcement. And perhaps most important, Mr. DeSantis’s wife, Casey, has consistently said the family name Deh-Santis, including in two memorable TV ads that helped him to victories in 2018 and 2022.
If elected president, Mr. DeSantis wouldn’t be the only world leader with a history of changing how he says his name. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia has also alternated the pronunciation of his last name, according to a 2019 report from the Australian public broadcaster ABC. He said in a TV interview then that people should call him by his nickname: Albo. “You can’t get that wrong,” he said.
Mr. DeSantis, who The Tampa Bay Times wrote was known as “Dee” in high school, has no such easy way out of his name question.
Mr. DeSantis may offer more clarity when his campaign begins running television advertisements, because at some point he will need to say the words required by federal law: “I’m Ron DeSantis and I approve this message.”
Reid J. Epstein covers campaigns and elections from Washington. Before joining The Times in 2019, he worked at The Wall Street Journal, Politico, Newsday and The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
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