Remember 2016, when Donald Trump completely destroyed a popular Florida governor despite said governor having something like $100 million in his campaign account and the support of much of the Republican Party? Are we going to have déjà vu all over again? Politico has a long piece on Trump vs. popular Florida governors. Hmmm.
To start with, there are some big differences between 2016 and 2024 that are important. First, Jeb! was caught entirely by surprise. He had no idea what hit him. He was expecting a proper debate on tax policy, immigration, trade, and things proper Republicans had always talked about. He wasn't expecting a cross between "recess in kindergarten" and "the circus is in town." He had no idea how to handle it or fight back. In contrast, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) knows precisely what to expect and has plenty of time to prepare for it. Jeb! thought attacking people was Not Done. DeSantis revels in it. He has a very thick hide and if Trump wants to play dirty, well, it's going to be mud wrestling.
Second, Bush expected to be attacked for his policies, not his person. Weak! Pathetic! Desperate! He didn't know how to handle that. In contrast, DeSantis knows exactly how to get Trump's goat. Call him a failed businessman, a failed candidate, and two-bit con man who committed crimes and was too dumb to cover his tracks. DeSantis is also sure to point out his own service as an officer in the Navy and note that Trump dodged the draft, not due to bone spurs but due to his being a coward and too scared to fight. And if that doesn't do it, DeSantis will just say Trump has the smallest hands of any president in history and watch what happens. Bush never tried to make Trump explode. DeSantis knows exactly how to do that.
Third, Trump is far weaker than he was in 2016 and DeSantis is far stronger than Bush was then. Trump just fielded a large number of high-profile candidates who lost. DeSantis just won an election by 19 points. Expect to hear LOSER! LOSER! LOSER! a lot this year and next, something that will make Trump's blood boil and make him lash out and say things that ultimately hurt him.
Fourth, Bush was a blue blood, son of a president and brother of a president at a time when people were angry with elites. DeSantis has a more modest background. His father installed equipment for Nielsen and his mother was a nurse. He made it to Yale and Harvard Law on his own. He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
Fifth, in 2016, Trump was fresh and exciting and people were willing to take a gamble on something new. Now he is angry, tiresome, repetitive, and boring, and a large majority of the country dislikes him. DeSantis is the fresh and exciting face this time, not Trump.
Sixth, Bush and DeSantis have enormously different personalities. Bush is civilized and polite. DeSantis is a street fighter who is fully prepared to hit below the belt as hard as he can if that is what it takes. It will be a completely different battle than 2016 was.
Seventh, although insults, rather than policy, would probably dominate a Trump-DeSantis matchup, DeSantis does have some "policy" things to talk about, if need be. There is "Don't say gay," trying to interrogate college students and professors about their political views, shipping immigrants from Texas to Massachusetts, and picking a fight with the "woke" Disney Corporation, among other base-pleasing actions that DeSantis can bring up. Bush never did anything like these stunts. Also, DeSantis can fly to some part of Texas, where there is no wall on the Mexican border and the Rio Grande is particularly narrow, for a photo-op and announce: "Trump was a failure as president; look, no wall because he failed to get Mexico to pay for it. What a failure. Worst president ever. Even worse than Jimmy Carter." Bush wasn't virulently anti-woke and wasn't any good at reaching the Trumpist base. DeSantis knows exactly how to do that.
Finally, Trump controlled the narrative in 2016. He called all the shots and Bush didn't know what hit him. DeSantis is never going to let Trump do that. He simply won't react to Trump's endless provocations and will hit back when he is good and ready and the timing is right. For example, he didn't react to Trump's announcement. He will react to Trump only when it suits him and ignore him the rest of the time, something that by itself will anger Trump no end. Most likely DeSantis won't even announce his run until after the Florida legislative session ends in May 2023. With backers like Ken Griffin, Steve Schwarzman, and Robert Mercer (see below), money won't be a problem and DeSantis can use the next half year to own the libs a few more times. The battle this time will be messy, dirty, and completely unlike 2016. (V)