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Tipsheet

Trump: Look, Florida Is an Unbearable Hellhole of a State

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

What to make of Donald Trump's latest political assault against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis?  This time, rather than recycling DNC attacks on entitlement spending, or hurling demeaning nicknames, Trump is calling the state DeSantis leads a pit of "misery and despair," marked by "destruction."  Setting aside the fact that Trump chooses to live in Florida, let's examine this attack.  The former president has disparaged the Sunshine State before, sharing bogus statistics to make it seem as though Florida is performing poorly on crime, education and health outcomes.  This time is different because in the very recent past, Trump has mostly argued that Florida is doing well -- just not because of its governor.  He's praised Charlie Crist in this context, asserting that Florida is naturally successful because of its weather and beaches.  Trump has now abandoned that approach, it seems, pivoting instead to framing the state as an insufferable dystopia (language warning):

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Does anyone buy this new line that actually, Florida is unspeakably horrible?  Based on the online reaction to the Trump campaign's Friday rant, it seems as though there has been one very receptive audience to it: Democrats.  They hate DeSantis and are eager to portray his state as an awful, failing, horrible place, so they're happily sharing Trump's smears, offering additional indictments of Florida that they think Trump might want to highlight next.  Once again, the interests of Donald Trump and the Democratic Party have aligned.  People on the Right have, for the most part, defended Florida, noting the undeniable successes of DeSantis' conservative governance.  It's notable, for instance, that over the last two-plus years, close to three-quarters-of-a-million people have moved to Florida.  Americans have voted with their feet, and Florida has been one of the very top destinations for in-migration in the country.  The economy is booming, so much so that even CNN can't twist or ignore what's happening on that front:

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The horror. Also, to make an extremely obvious point, the people of Florida just had their every-four-years opportunity to render a verdict on how their state's chief executive is performing.  DeSantis barely squeaked by in the blue year of 2018, eking out a victory by less than half a percentage point.  Four years into his leadership, Floridians re-elected him by nearly 20 points.  His margin went from around 30,000 votes to more than 1.5 million votes.  This is not a reflection of "misery" or "despair" or "destruction," needless to say.  DeSantis' win was so dominant -- a blowout by any standards, and a beatdown of historic proportions by Florida standards -- that he flipped multiple blue counties into the red column. Including this one:  

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An even more recent public opinion poll shows DeSantis with a +20 approval rating in the state, including sky high numbers among Republicans.  The disapprovers are overwhelmingly Democrats.  And, of course, Donald Trump, who might be the national frontrunner, but he's not exactly acting like one:


The former president lashed out at his own pollster because his numbers in the Wall Street Journal (which showed Trump ahead in the national 2024 GOP primary by double digits) revealed that DeSantis is matching up better against the very unpopular incumbent than Trump is.  In the survey, Trump trails Biden by three points, whereas DeSantis leads Biden by the same margin.  One of the best arguments against nominating Trump in 2024 is that the Democrats want to face him because they believe that he'd be relatively easy to defeat.  Trump has universal name recognition and has more than half of the electorate passionately opposed to him, and motivated to stop him.  Numbers showing that Sleepy Joe would be in a pretty good position to beat Trump again are a problem for Trump, hence the tantrum against the man he pays to conducting his own polling.  It's also quite striking to juxtapose Trump's incessant, 'kitchen sink'-style broadsides against DeSantis with his admitted reluctance to criticize California Gov. Gavin Newsom, due to Newsom's flattery of Trump's ego.  Trump assesses that DeSantis and Newsom are each doing a horrible job governing their respective states, but he only attacks one of them obsessively.  Notable.  

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It's also been interesting to see how some of the Republican Congressmen from Florida who've lined up to endorse Trump in recent days (a real show of force by Team Trump) are reacting to their guy turning right around and totally trashing the state they represent.  Some are defending Florida and DeSantis, while sticking with their Trump support.  Others don't seem eager to answer questions about it at all:


For those who may be struggling to figure out exactly how to react to Trump's new anti-Florida fixation, perhaps they can just come out and state the obvious: Trump doesn't actually believe much or any of what he's saying. Everyone understands that he lobs political bombs at DeSantis because he views him as a threat to his own pursuit of power. He'll say absolutely anything. And he's even admitted publicly (in an off-script moment) that he doesn't believe or care about the stuff he's spouting:

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I'll leave you with an almost-explicit attack line against Trump that DeSantis is going to keep featuring in the coming months:


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