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Tipsheet

Hmm: DNC Rapid Response Machine Now Boosting Trump Attacks Against DeSantis

Over the weekend, former President Trump -- still the lone declared 2024 candidate for president from either major party -- held events, described as "low key" by Reuters, in the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina.  The 45th president described himself as 'angrier' than he has been in the past, asserting for good measure that he believes he won the last two general elections, the latest re-litigation of his 2020 loss.  What garnered a fair amount of attention, however, were his latest salvos against would-be rival Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.  National and state-level polling shows DeSantis as the Republican most competitive with Trump in a primary setting, including some numbers that suggest DeSantis might be able to beat Trump.  Despite buzz that his team is laying the groundwork for a presidential announcement, Florida's governor isn't expected to make a move one way or another until after the state's legislative session this spring. 

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Trump and his campaign have been eyeing DeSantis for months, and the former president has lobbed occasional, poorly-received attacks against his potential future opponent, including furnishing him with the disparaging nickname 'Ron DeSanctimonious.'  Over the last few days, Trump has been back at it, warning that a DeSantis presidential run would be an act of great 'disloyalty' (setting aside the reality that several top officials from Trump's own administration are openly mulling 2024 bids, and that Trump loyalty often seems to run in one direction).  He's also coming after DeSantis over COVID policies, apparently leaning into the old pearl of political wisdom that sometimes it's best to directly assail an opponent on his or her perceived strengths.  In a Truth Social post, Trump wrote the following:

The revelations about Ron DeSanctimonious doing FAR WORSE than many other Republican governors, including that he unapologetically shut down Florida and its beaches, was interesting, indeed.  DJT leading big!!!

In response to this post, I tweeted a screenshot of Trump's post, followed by a March 2020 headline (one of many) about DeSantis refusing a statewide shutdown order of his state's beaches, over which he was sued angrily criticized (remember the grim reaper troll to whom CNN gave airtime?) -- and then a headline from April 2020 of Trump ripping Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp for partially reopening some of the state's businesses 'too soon:'

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Hardcore Trump supporters point to a handful of stories about some beaches being shut down in Florida for a short period of time, at the behest of local officials.  It's true that DeSantis ordered some brief lockdown measures in the earliest days of the pandemic, back when data was still scant, and 'X days to stop the spread' hadn't become a punchline.  It's also true that DeSantis started to buck the Trump-Fauci-Birx recommendations very early on, including urging local governments to reopen beaches, correctly citing data that people needed to be outdoors for fresh air, sunlight and exercise.  If the Trump Train thinks it will flatten DeSantis over COVID policies, I suspect they might end up reconsidering that strategy.  It is a widely-held view on the Right, for good reason, that DeSantis' pandemic leadership was vital, not only for Florida, but for other states across the country.  The Sunshine State earned a reputation as a freedom destination, where people could live their lives without onerous governmental intervention.  The economy soared.  Schools were open and thrived.  COVID outcomes were average.  Americans flocked to Florida.

Trump and his fans may want to dent DeSantis' image on this front, which makes him very appealing to a wide range of voters.  But in doing so, Trump will open himself up to turn-key criticisms.  If Trump's argument is that DeSantis was too much of a lockdown/shutdown governor, he'll have to answer for his policies as president, which were very deferential to Fauci et al, for a long period of time.  He blasted Republican officials for not following the Fauci timetable for reopening.  In a head-to-head showdown on this issue, from the freedom/anti-lockdown/anti-mandate perspective, DeSantis clearly wins.  Some Trump supporters have also knocked DeSantis for encouraging vaccinations, which the governor did -- especially, and rightly, for senior citizens (you may recall that the liberal media condemned DeSantis for being too effective at getting seniors vaccinated, smearing him as corrupt or racist).  He also rejected mandates every step of the way.  If Trump wants to score points against DeSantis for being too 'pro-vax,' he'll need to hope people forget his strong public support for vaccination, including getting jabbed and boosted, with great fanfare.  He'd also have to abandon one of the great achievements of his own presidency: Operation Warp Speed, which Joe Biden and his administration have tried to gaslight and whitewash away.

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In what may have been the most revealing development in this little skirmish was a tweet that was published in response to my post embedded above.  It cited one headline about Florida beach closures, precipitated by county-level officials, which happened in the earliest, chaotic days of the then-mysterious pandemic.  I've already explained the context for such headlines, but they've been shared quite a lot by Trump fans, eager to do their part to spread Trump's attack line.  One such tweet came from someone named Ammar Moussa, who I assumed was part of the pro-Trump online army.  Wrong.  Or perhaps right, actually, just in a surprising way.  Mr. Moussa may effectively be acting as part of the pro-Trump online army, but his job title may be somewhat unexpected:

Approximately two seconds of critical thinking would provide the obvious theory on why the Democratic National Committee's director of 'rapid response' would be rushing to amplify and pump up a bogus pro-Trump attack against Ron DeSantis.  It's the same reason why the pathetic Lincoln Project grifters are openly rooting for Trump over DeSantis.  It's not difficult to grok.  The COVID barbs represent a bold if flagrant strategy, advancing an anti-DeSantis line that has been tried before.  Very recently, in fact:

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How'd that go?  Meanwhile, here's a leftist CNN contributor desperately trying to goad DeSantis -- who has other things on his plate right now -- into responding to Trump's provocations:

It's all so subtle, isn't it?  One of the key lessons of the 2022 elections for Republican voters was that when Democrats clearly tell you what they want, maybe consider not giving it to them.  I'll leave you with one of the dynamics that might help Trump's 2024 nomination chances more than any help Democrats and leftists may shower upon him for strategic reasons:

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A re-run of 2015 and 2016 -- a crowded field, with everyone else foolishly hoping Trump will magically implode and go away -- is a recipe for another Trump nomination.  This isn't a hypothetical scenario; it's one we all lived through.  

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