I’m sort of at the point where I think maybe Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was on the fence before but with Donald Trump’s constant (and honestly ridiculous) attacks on him, DeSantis is definitely not on the fence now.
I know DeSantis has basically been gearing up for a run, especially in recent weeks, but he’s done a stellar job as governor of Florida and can probably have that job as long as he wants. The man won a swing state (with a heavy Hispanic population) by 20 points. Clearly his political instincts in the face of diversity are on point. And that is absolutely infuriating Donald Trump, whose political instincts are about as sharp as tapioca pudding.
In 2016, Trump benefitted from Kellyanne Conway keeping him disciplined and on track to beat a wildly unpopular Hillary Clinton (seriously – America chose reality TV over Clinton, which tells you all you need to know about how beloved she really is). In 2020, as I wrote at the time, Trump was incredibly undisciplined, with no clear message and having listened to the Health Experts, made some bad decisions when it came to leadership during the pandemic. It hurt the country.
Now, he’s trying to shift all of the blame to DeSantis in absolutely incredible and dishonest rants to anyone who will listen.
There’s a piece from Bloomberg that expands on Trump’s apparent strategy a bit.
In conversations with Trump campaign advisers and allies, the strategy they’ve developed is to bury DeSantis’s expected presidential campaign before it begins. On Friday, DeSantis spoke at the Heritage Foundation’s 50th Anniversary summit outside Washington, and Trump will address Republicans later Friday in DeSantis’s home state.
Trump, according to his allies, will use the occasion to remind local officials how he turned some swing states red in 2016. He’ll speak about how he plans to campaign against Biden in 2024 and also will try to muddy up the brightest parts of the governor’s record.
Shortly after DeSantis’s speech, the Trump campaign sent out a lengthy critique of the governor’s economic record, hitting him for the high cost of housing, fuel and other basics.
The DeSantis team, which is otherwise notoriously tight-lipped (which infuriates Trump and the media), is shrugging off the attacks, and DeSantis himself isn’t stopping to pay Trump’s attacks any attention at all. While there is plenty of ink being spilled about how donors are worried DeSantis isn’t fighting back, how he’s just not a likable guy, and even more being spilled about his lack of meaningful endorsements this week, the DeSantis team isn’t saying a word about it.
Of course, in a technical sense, they can’t. Once DeSantis qualifies to become a presidential candidate, under current law, he has to resign his role as governor. There’s a bit of ambiguity as to what “qualify” may mean in the legal sense here, but while the Florida legislature works that out, DeSantis isn’t going to risk having to step down before a legislative session is over. And that may actually be part of Trump’s strategy here. Either force DeSantis to fight back and lose his job as governor or keep attacking, wear him down, and laugh because he can’t fight back right now.
But that also means Trump and his team have not been paying attention to DeSantis since he got into politics. The man has never been bullied into anything, and that has only become clearer throughout his first term as governor. DeSantis has, on multiple occasions, outright silenced the media – shutting them down when they have asked clearly biased and leading questions – which is a feat Trump himself never accomplished. The best the former president could do was shout over them and then mock them in rallies where he was surrounded by supporters.
DeSantis was accused of making a racist attack on Andrew Gillum during his first gubernatorial run. He didn’t double down, but he didn’t apologize, either. He called the attacks “ridiculous” and moved on. The controversy died almost immediately.
If Trump thinks he’s going to bully DeSantis out of this race, he’s just as clueless about how DeSantis operates as the media – which also wants DeSantis to either not run or be forced out of the public eye – and Trump has joined with the media in attacking DeSantis on Disney and other policies the governor has pushed. I’m not a genius (as many of you in the comments section have told me a time or two), but it seems to me that it’s probably not the wisest general Republican strategy to be attacking generally-liked conservatives from their left. But, hey, I don’t
grift make the big consultant dollars like the political experts do.
I don’t know what Trump thinks his strategy is going to accomplish, but it’s almost certainly going to fail. He clearly doesn’t understand the personality of the guy he’s attacking.