Serving as the state’s chief executive during the coronavirus pandemic has helped build a “personal connection” with residents, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told the Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show.

The Republican governor, who took a stand to oppose federal mandates, said in the Tuesday interview that although he had been in his position for about a year before the pandemic started, it is since COVID-19 began that the “personal connections that you have with people became especially important.”

“They look to me and say ‘thank you for saving my job. Thank you for saving my business. If it wasn’t for you, my kids wouldn’t be in school.’ All these things that are very personal with people. I was one that was standing with them and making sure that they were protected even when it wasn’t necessarily the thing the media wanted to do.”

As he starts to gear up for next year’s reelection bid, DeSantis said that the connections he has had with the state’s residents are crucial.

“When I ran in 2018, a lot of people didn’t know me. I was one Congressman out of 27 in a state of 22 million people. Well now, people know,” DeSantis insisted. “They know all the stuff that we’ve done.”

DeSantis’ message to the public appears to be working, according to Florida Politics, because he is leading in early polls against potential Democratic opponents.

Matched against Rep. Charlie Crist, DeSantis leads by 7 percentage points, according to a poll sponsored last month by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

The governor also holds substantial fundraising advantages against both Democrats and is potentially considering a 2024 run for president, although DeSantis has so far dismissed those prospects.