Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has a death wish and/or a supersized ego that will lead him into harm.
Ron DeSantis (left) is preparing to take on former President Donald J. Trump
He reached the peak of his power after winning reelection by crushing former governor Charlie Crist, passing an educational bill empowering parents (deceitfully termed the “don’t say gay” bill by Democrats), and yanking self-government powers from Disney World after the Mouse went all Woke on DeSantis.
All the while, his poll numbers improved, he declared Florida is where Woke goes to die, and he started thinking about running for president.
Then he double dipped the education bill, which had barred gender discussions in grades K-3. Perfectly appropriate to me. How are you going to talk gender to kids who can’t tie their shoelaces? Delay that until they study biology.
But DeSantis expanded the ban right through high school. Meaning gender would never be discussed until college? Then there was the mess about canceling a Black studies Advanced Placement course, which affected almost no one, but looked bad and was an unforced error. Then he got a bill passed that no license or paperwork was necessary to carry a handgun in Florida, as if the Sunshine State were the Cowboy State.
Way too radical.
There’s more — such as targeting drag queens, bathrooms, and pronouns. DeSantis has chosen the lightning rod of social issues to be his sword and shield. Some of it will work, some will not.
PACs backing the former president have been running attack ads against DeSantis for many weeks, the latest calling him Ron DeSalesTax, because he proposed a 23% national sales tax. (He did, while in Congress, but that would have been in exchange for dropping income tax.)
A recent CBS News/YouGov poll has Donald J. Trump leading Ron DeSanctimonious (as Trump calls him) 58-22. That’s a 36-point spread. How will Meatball Ron (another Trump nickname, that he says he’s dropped) overcome that lead?
He can’t. Here’s why:
If he doesn’t attack Trump — and he says he wants to talk policy and not personality — he will seem weak.
And he doesn”t really disagree with Trump policy. He is, in effect, selling himself as a kinder, gentler Trump — the same right-wing policies without the tweets and name-calling. He is selling his personality as being different from Trump’s, but similar on policy.
And if he does attack Trump, he loses the large minority (or majority?) of Republicans who have sworn fealty to their orange king. The people who believe the election was stolen will not believe that DeSantis will be Trump 2.0, and voting for the Florida governor would be disloyal.
DeSantis is the only heir nonapparent in double digits, even if he is not in striking range.
For him to grow, he has to look better, or Trump has to look worse.
After Trump was convicted of sexual harassment and defamation, his approval rating actually went up. It’s hard to see how anything he says or does will diminish him among those who follow him. Even the ones who don’t believe his lies find the alternative — a heading-toward-decrepit Joe Biden — even worse.
Add this in: It is not a two-person race. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is running, and (Black) South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott has filed to run. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is running, as is millionaire Vivek Ramaswamy, businessman Perry Johnson, plus possible candidacies from former VP Mike Pence, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, and others.
Get the picture? Remember 2015?
normal traditional candidates canceled each other out, opening a lane for a Trump victory.
I can see exactly the same thing happening this year.
I can see it. You can see it.
How come DeSantis can’t see it? Is he placing his bets on Trump fatigue?
He could have sat this one out, finished his term and waited for 2028. Even if Trump wins, he can serve only one term. If Biden wins (assuming he is the candidate, the seat will be open — assuming he doesn’t die in office. If that happens DeSantis would face Kamala Harris.)
That’s a lot of “ifs,” but this year a Trump primary victory is a near certainty.
So why is DeSantis betting his political future?