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Trump v. DeSantis: Advantage, DeSantis

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Butch Dill

Things keep changing. A few months ago I thought Trump would not run. Then I thought he would run. Now, I don’t think so once again. And one of the tells is the subtle shot he took at DeSantis over vaccines. The fact is that Trump, if he runs, is not a shoo-in. And this could be an epic battle for the chance to beat Kamala Harris like a drum in 2024. And, at least according to people like you who took my most recent Twitter poll, Trump is not a shoo-in. He’s dropped to just one-third support from nearly half six months ago. If he wants to win Round Two, he’ll have to fight for it.


But my gut is again telling me that 75-year-old Donald Trump will not run in 2024. Perhaps if the election was next week, but with it three years off, that's a lot of time and he’s aging out. Does he want to follow President Crusty’s lead and decline on camera over the next seven years (three campaigning, four in office)? Is anyone more sensitive to such things than Trump? Maybe not.

But he still likes being the big dog, and he resents those coming along behind him who neglect to recognize. The purported shot at DeSantis over jabs last week seems significant. Trump is super proud of his vaccines, which is definitely not where the base is at right now. Does he know that? He’s off in his own world and TV does not reflect the depth of the anti-COVID dissension. He did a rally in Arizona and that’s nice, but the more he defends his COVID record – which includes not firing that malignant dwarf Fauci – the less the base is going to dig his rap.

No one hates Trump in the GOP. Everyone still here is grateful to him for what he did. But this is not about gratitude. It is about what he did for us lately. Is it possible that the support for Trump ’24 is a mile wide and an inch deep? That people have not yet really thought it through? I can tell you that among a lot of the hardcore name conservatives – whose conservative credentials are beyond question – there are a lot of people ready to say, “Thanks, here’s a gold watch.”


A lot.

I did another Twitter poll on Trump v. DeSantis, which is unscientific yet still more scientific than the people telling you to wear a face thing and take a vaccine that doesn’t work as advertised. My previous one in June had Trump 45.7%, DeSantis 50.1% and others 4.1%. This week’s poll was Trump 33.4%, DeSantis 59.7% and others 6.9%.

That’s a big drop for Trump among my hardcore audience. Two-thirds now are looking elsewhere.

Ron DeSantis is the candidate du jour. Now, he is totally focused, as he must be, both on his sick wife and on winning the 2022 governor’s race. If either of those do not work out well, he can’t run. Further, he gains nothing picking a fight with Trump now. But if Trump does run, he will have to, because 2024 is the DeSantis year. In 2028, he will be an ex-governor and who knows what the issues look like or what the Dem bench looks like then?

What if they fight? What if King Kong takes on Godzilla?

Does DeSantis hit Trump on COVID mistakes? Trump would double-down, because he is Trump, but the base is clearly in the DeSantis corner on that issue. DeSantis would run on the fact that he has the same lib fighter vibe as the Bad Orange Man but that he actually governs, where Trump was (and would be again) tied up with all sorts of investigations, impeachments and, yes, mean tweets.


While Trump has the gravitas of an ex-president, that he would be pulled down to the same platform as all the contenders (DeSantis would not be the only one) and this would make him look smaller. He would hate that. In contrast, as kingmaker, he will tower over the race – this would support him not running. But in a real primary, Trump’s current popularity can only shrink as people look at other candidates and some of them slip away.

For many of us, the question is not one of personalities. Politicians are fungible. Yes, Trump got shafted – I saw that lawyering after the election. But this is not about Trump, nor about gratitude. It’s about winning. Here’s my candidate, and I think the candidate of many others: The Based Guy Who Is Most Likely to Win.

It could be Trump again. Or it could be DeSantis. Or it could be someone else, though at this point they are all footnotes.

The key contest now is Trump v. DeSantis. But, for this bout to happen, DeSantis has to get past his two challenges and decide he will do it. Then Trump has to decide what he will do. None of that is remotely ascertainable today. But if that fight comes, it will be epic.

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