So, I told someone hardcore that I would be writing a column called “The Case Against Ron DeSantis 2024,” and he asked “Oh, will it be blank?” Amusing, and not unexpected because we are still at the DeSantis infatuation stage. As I wrote in my previous column, “The Case For Ron DeSantis 2024,” there is a lot to like about the Florida governor. But this is not time to go moon-eyed over The New Shiny Thing. We need to be ruthless in our vetting of the candidates. I was when I wrote “The Case Against Donald Trump 2024” (he sent me a nice note about it, BTW), and I will do the same for Ron DeSantis here.
Understand that the case against Ron DeSantis is not a case against Ron DeSantis personally any more than it would be against Donald Trump as a person. For our purposes, his objective goodness is irrelevant. We are not going to be asked to elect him buddy or nice guy or whatever. His one job would be to win the presidency. It’s pretty clear he meets the basic qualifications to be president, which used to be that he won’t bankrupt us or get us nuked, and since those two things are apparently not qualifications anymore, DeSantis is certainly good to go. This is really about electability, whether or not he can get the voters to put an X by his name in numbers greater than those for Grandpa Badfinger or whatever other pinko nimrod the Dems put up in 2024. The case against DeSantis is really the case against him winning the general election. And there is a case to be made for that.
First, who is Ron DeSantis? He’s got the credentials (the Yale one is not a good one) and he’s not a drooling mutant – which is another thing that used to, but no longer, disqualifies a candidate – yet does anyone outside of Florida or off of Twitter really know him yet? Some polls lately have him doing well, but others have Trump far ahead. That’s not a shock. Trump is known (maybe too known) and it’s only a couple weeks into the cycle. Maybe it’s early and voters are unaware of him, but he has yet to demonstrate that he’s the No. 1 guy in the GOP race, much less the general.
And what is his path in the general? His lane is competent and conservative, just like Kemp or Youngkin, and in 2022 that lane did well while based and belligerent had a tougher time. But guess what won in 2016 and came within less than 50,000 votes in three states from winning again in 2020? B&B.
Can DeSantis generate giant rallies, to the extent they matter? He’s a good speaker who has markedly improved over the several years and half-dozen speeches I have seen in person. But he’s no Trump. Of course, no one is Trump. Hell, judging by his listless announcement speech, it’s not clear Trump is even Trump anymore.
DeSantis will have to show some fire, and he does overlap into the based and belligerent lane. He fights, and he wins. Further, his fighting is disciplined and targeted. Trump took on the media – yah! But he also took on Rosie O’Donnell – ugh. DeSantis does not get into personal beefs. His tweets are not mean, and while a lot of us dearly love the mean tweets, a lot of voters are exhausted by mean tweets. And remember, the goal is to own the libs by winning power, not just by mocking their pinko behinds on the tweet machine (Trump being allowed back on Twitter might be a mixed blessing).
But can Heavy D win over the people who used to vote Republican then stopped because they were too sissy to deal with Trump’s in-your-face vibe? Look, these kind of soft, mostly suburban moderate people are tiresome, and the men are impotent figuratively and probably literally while their wives are awash in Chardonnay and SSRIs, but we need their votes. Can DeSantis get them to vote for him, or will his toughness make the wine women squeal and the wine males ashamed? The evidence is that in Florida they came around, but that’s one state. How does he play elsewhere?
Here's the question DeSantis needs to answer: “How do you win in Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Hampshire, Georgia, North Carolina, and Wisconsin?” Those are the real battleground states, and if he wants in the game, we need to know the plan to win these electoral votes away from the Democrats.
How does DeSantis play outside of the Land of Swamps and Falling Frozen Iguanas? We have no idea. Can he get the suburbans? The white working class? Heck, can he get the Trumpers?
That last one is key. You cannot win the presidency as a Republican with only Trumpanauts, but you cannot win it without them either. DeSantis has dared defy the Great Orange One by failing to take himself out of the running. Some of the Trump people are ticked off, though on social media it is hard to tell which accounts love the Donald and which are repurposed Democrat bots that just last week were calling us insurrectionists.
There is also the argument that he just won in Florida and, damnit, he needs to govern Florida and not abandon the state to…save the country. I don’t think this argument has ever prevailed on a potential winner, and I doubt it will now. It’s not like he would be tossing the keys to Charlie Crist or the naked drug guy.
Then there is the idea that it is not his turn, that he must defer to Trump because Trump got shafted. The idea is often combined with DeSantis running as Trump’s veep then taking over in 2028. This politico-erotic fantasy is less likely than the letter to Penthouse about the two swinging Swedish stewardesses who just moved in next door and came over to borrow some sugar wearing cheerleader outfits. Let’s just say Trump’s record on people close to him is mixed, spanning from terrible to Pence. A big argument for DeSantis is that Trump is … problematic, and therefore why would DeSantis ever choose to make that problem his?
Another knock on DeSantis is some of the people allegedly supporting him — a litany of RINOs, squishes, and cruise crew losers like Paul Ryan and similar establishment fungi. Of course, it is not clear that these unaccomplished amphibians actually support DeSantis rather than hate Trump. The creepy oddities of the Bulwark, Dispatch, and Lincoln Project have already signaled that they despise DeSantis precisely because they fear he will torment their paymasters without the baggage that made Trump vulnerable. Some people – both pro-Trump and anti-Trump, since they share the objective of nominating Trump – cynically push the “Look at who likes DeSantis!” line. It’s unclear if the base will be fooled by this ham-handed ploy.
Another hit on DeSantis is that he cannot unify the GOP. There are people who will vote for no one but Trump ever and that is that. Now, a lot of people say that today but, when the time comes, they will vote for DeSantis over whichever warmed-over communist pill the Democrats nominate. Others will not. Some did not vote before Donald Trump and were brought into politics by Donald Trump and will leave politics with Donald Trump. Others think Trump is owed the 2024 nomination and that if anyone else gets it that is just further proof of the perfidy of the system. Some have bought into the dumb memes like that this founder of the Freedom Caucus is a secret Paul Ryan puppet or that he must be a squish because some people who hate Trump are – shockingly – leaning toward the non-Trump frontrunner. One might observe that DeSantis can be counted on to never hire people like Fauci, Bolton, Wray, or Omarosa, but making that observation kind of assumes that the people you would need to make it to are capable of being convinced. Many are not, and that is a problem for DeSantis. Can he show that the people he loses by not being Trump are going to be outnumbered by the people he gains by not being Trump?
Another point against DeSantis is, “Sure, he’s a good governor, but he has not proven himself nationally and Trump has.” That is true, though with only two nationally elected positions in America there are not a lot of folks who have proven themselves successful nationally. Almost all candidates are trying it nationally for the first time or tried it before and lost. DeSantis needs to show how he plans to get those battleground states in his column. Will a Yale guy with a military background be able to win over hardhats and farmers? Well, two of three Bushes did and they had the disadvantage of being Bushes, but that was a while ago.
And will he have the money to fight? Sure, big donors will be happy to help but how about the little guys, the small dollar donors? Will they pay up? Will they work the phones and knock on the doors? Will they show up?
That’s the thing – DeSantis is an unknown quantity nationally. But most candidates are their first time, and lots of them win. The way for DeSantis to refute the case against him is to show exactly how he intends to do so in 2024.
But Trump won’t be a pushover. If DeSantis wants the nomination, he’ll have to take it.
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