As Trump Took the Stage at NRA Convention, DeSantis-Aligned PAC Drops Brutal Ad on Trump's Guns Record
Donald Trump spoke yesterday to a crowd of adoring fans at this year’s NRA convention, receiving cheers from the crowd in a speech where he touted himself as a champion of guns and the Second Amendment. He also vowed to continue to be that champion should he win his old job back in 2024.
But while Trump was preparing that speech, a political action committee aligned with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis released an ad attacking Trump for siding with Democrats on the issue of guns throughout his presidency. It cites his talking points and how closely they resemble the talking points of Democrats like Chris Murphy and Kamala Harris. It also pointed out Trump’s praise for Dianne Feinstein and others.
And it’s true: Trump’s actions on gun control during his presidency were not extremely popular with the gun rights crowds, and the NRA itself criticized his bump stock ban after the shocking Las Vegas shooting that took place during the last administration.
“Half of you are so afraid of the NRA,” Trump says in a clip highlighted in the ad. “We have to fight them every once in a while, that’s OK. Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can’t be petrified. They have great power over you people. They have less power over me. I don’t need them. What do I need?”
In his speech yesterday, though, Trump told the crowd that the radical left, including Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, “is also waging war on the NRA, shamefully trying to destroy this legendary organization.”
The ad itself reveals the battle that will inevitably take place if Ron DeSantis jumps in, with both politicians seeking to capture the conservative base that Trump had held onto for so long. Attacking from Trump’s right means that DeSantis supporters continue to show that Donald Trump isn’t so much a conservative as someone who just plays really well to whoever his base is at the time.
This fight also comes on the heels of a speech DeSantis gave earlier this week in Ohio, when he pointed out that Republicans have “developed a culture of losing.”
As my colleague Mike Miller noted recently, the current scenario puts DeSantis “between a rock and a hard place.”
While DeSantis’ public stances so far have closely aligned with those of Trump — although he’s taken a more skeptical view of COVID vaccinations than Trump — he risks alienating “traditional” Republicans, which remains the largest bloc of the GOP (contrary to the beliefs of “MAGA”), if he remains too close to Trump’s positions.
By the same token, if DeSantis attacks Trump one-tenth as much as Trump continues to attack him, Trump loyalists promptly lose their minds. I know; hypocrisy is unbecoming.
So, what’s DeSantis to do, if he does run — with all signs pointing to “I’m in”?
DeSantis, so far, appears content with siphoning away former Trump supporters by showing that while he’s “just as tough as Trump,” he’s not saddled with the former president’s baggage and constant drama. Is it a winning strategy? It’s too early to tell, although a February Quinnipiac poll found both Trump and DeSantis with 37 percent favorable ratings, but in stark contrast, Trump was minus-22 percent — 57 percent to 35 percent — unfavorable, compared to DeSantis.
It is a very delicate dance, but one that DeSantis cannot officially perform until he has declared his candidacy – something everyone expects to see happen soon, but few know when.
You also need to keep in mind that while we’re seeing shades of a campaign strategy emerge, none of them are from DeSantis’ official team. They are notoriously leak-proof, and that in and of itself appears to be frustrating the hell out of everyone from the mainstream media to the Trump campaign. They can’t get a handle on DeSantis because no one is telegraphing his moves.