Trump released a statement on Wednesday, in which he blasted DeSantis as a second-rate Governor who hates older Americans. He starts:
"Now that Ron DeSanctimonious is finally admitting he’s in the Race by beginning to fight back, and now that his Polls have crashed so he has no other choice, let me explain the facts. He is, for a Republican, an average Governor, he got 1.2 million less Votes in Florida than me, he fought for massive cuts in Social Security and Medicare, and wanted Social Security minimum age to be raised to 70-years-old, or more. He is a disciple of Paul Ryan, and did whatever Ryan told him to do."
Then Trump added what could have been a Democratic campaign commercial
"In Education, Florida ranks among the worst in the Country and on crime statistics, Florida ranked Third Worst in Murder, Third Worst in Rape, and Third Worst in Aggravated Assault," wrote Trump. "For 2022, Jacksonville was ranked as one of the Top 25 Major Crime Cities in the Country, with Tampa and Orlando not doing much better. On Education, Florida ranks #39 in Health & Safety in the Country, #50 in Affordability, and #30 in Education & Childcare, HARDLY GREATNESS THERE!"
Adding: "The fact is, Ron is an average Governor, but the best by far in the Country in one category, Public Relations, where he easily ranks Number One — But it is all a Mirage, just look at the facts and figures, they don’t lie. And we don’t want Ron as our President!"
If DeSantis wants to survive, he is going to have to offer more than jibes about paying off pornstars while at the same time rushing to Trump’s defense in the Manhattan DA’s potential case based on paying off of a pornstar. That is pure, expedient weakness.
Trump shows how to bully a bully. And Ron DeSantis is a bully. He picks on the powerless. His favorite target is the LGBTQ community. And among them, he targets its youngest members. It takes a sadistic coward to build a political career on the suffering of trans teens and young Blacks. Even in his high-profile campaign against Disney, he was protected by a compliant legislature when he spitefully took action against a corporation that spoke up against his wanton cruelty to school kids.
But what has he offered in response to Trump? His overarching ambition is propelling him to run against Trump in 2024. But he has missed his opportunity to start his campaign with a full-throated roar declaring, “look at me, I’m the man.”
Say what you will about Trump, in 2015 his descent down the gilded escalator and his inflammatory campaign announcement got everyone’s attention. The people in the know may have dismissed it at the time as the excess of a TV reality star. But the base noticed and has stuck like a leech to his backside ever since.
By 2022, the magic had seemingly disappeared. Trump’s campaign announcement was unattended by anyone important, and his speech was so boring Fox News cut away. But DeSantis did nothing. The moment was ripe for the newly anointed whiz kid — one of the GOP’s few shining stars in the midterms — to get the boot in. Had he come out guns blazing, he would have caught a tired, old man on the back foot. Instead, he dithered, and Trump has recovered from disappointing early polls to reestablish himself as the alpha Republican.
Timidity has made Ron’s quest a steeper hill to climb. It has also left him weakened not just for 2024 but also for 2028. He either announces for 2024 as his stature declines. Or he quits a race he never entered, looking like a man too scared to take on the Mar-a-Lago miasma.
If Ron decides to stay in — and I think the odds favor it — he must show he has something. The Republican primary voter has no use for policies. It wants gladiators. Does DeSantis have that kind of spine? I doubt it.
Start with his oratorical skills. He has none. He even sounds boring in his campaign commercials — where I am sure they used the best of multiple takes. God knows who he put to sleep in the rejected footage. He is no better on the campaign trail, where he prefers to stand behind ropes and drone out canned platitudes rather than dive into the mosh pit of retail politics.
Consider the media coverage of his post-Hurricane Ian actions. The lasting images will be him wearing white go-go boots and the photo of the self-declared “cracker” who is laughing with Biden as Joe has his hand across his wife’s shoulders — while Ron looks bored to be there.
Earlier in the year, he had shipped undocumented immigrants from Texas to Matha’s Vineyard — yet more bullying. He thought it was a winner, but questions followed. Why did it cost so much? Was it a sop to a political donor? Why were Florida taxpayers paying to fly people from Texas? Just how badly did he lie to the people he was relocating? Even Texas Governor Greg Abbott — who bused immigrants to DC — thought the stunt was off.
None of this is fatal. But Ron has shown no signs of improvement. He released a book, “The Courage to be Free” or, acerbically known as “Make America Florida.” It highlights that DeSantis is politically not that much different from Trump — which was supposed to be his strength. He would be Trump without the baggage. Instead, he is Trump without the sizzle.
I think Ron will wilt. And, licking his wounds, will take it out on some powerless group of Floridians.