Dem 51
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DeSantis Debate Disaster: Everybody's Talkin'

Once again, everybody's talkin' about Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), and once again, the subject is what a fiasco his campaign is. It's not a secret that candidates and super PACs have ways of "coordinating," even if doing so openly is a violation of campaign finance law. It's also not a secret that DeSantis and his main super PAC, Never Back Down, are pushing the rules to the limit, and perhaps beyond. As it turns out, however, there's a somewhat fine line between "help me out" and "humiliate me."

As we have noted multiple times already, DeSantis relies primarily on big donors. That means his PAC is well-heeled, since contribution rules for PACs are much more lenient than they are for candidates. The DeSantis campaign, on the other hand, is running short on cash. And so, the PAC is now, in many ways, effectively running the DeSantis campaign.

One of the tricks of the trade, as it were, is for a PAC (or a campaign) to post information to some obscure corner of the Internet that just so happens to be known to the campaign (or the PAC). Since the information is "public," it can be argued that the posting was for the benefit of the world at large, and the campaign (or the PAC) just happened to stumble across it. It's an obvious dodge, but one that allows candidates to just barely stay on the right side of the rules.

What happened yesterday was that Never Back Down decided to share some useful strategy tips with DeSantis as the Governor prepares for the Republican candidates' debate next week. Had the PAC stuck those documents somewhere obscure, then nobody but the PAC's staff and DeSantis' campaign staff would have been the wiser. But instead, the PAC posted the documents to the main page of its own website. That's not illegal, but it is unwise, since it means that outsiders are vastly more likely to stumble across the material. You know, outsiders like the staff of The New York Times.

And so it is that, instead of this being a matter between DeSantis and his closest advisers, it's now a matter between DeSantis and... EVERYONE. Far and away the most embarrassing part of the leak was the first portion of the "main" strategy memo, which instructs DeSantis to do four things:

  1. Attack Joe Biden and the media 3-5 times.
  2. State GRD positive vision 2-3 times.
  3. Hammer Vivek Ramaswamy in a response.
  4. Defend Donald Trump in absentia in response to a Chris Christie attack.

It's only 34 words, but boy do those 34 words tell quite a story. Here are half a dozen implications:

  1. DeSantis' top argument for the presidency is not "I'm good" but "Biden bad."
  2. His "positive vision" is such a mystery that even the memo writer doesn't know what it is.
  3. His sure-to-come attacks on the media are pre-conceived and thus contrived
  4. He realizes that he's in danger of being overtaken by Vivek Ramaswamy
  5. He also realizes that he can't overtake Trump, and so must kowtow to him
  6. His team agrees with us that Trump is going to skip the debate

And that's just the first bit. You might want to consider reading the whole memo, as it's full of stuff making clear how phony the Governor's performance will be. For example, later in the memo, it calls for "a personal anecdote story about family, kids, Casey, showing emotion." As opposed to an anecdote non-story, we guess, or maybe an impersonal anecdote story.

It's not a secret that presidential debates are rather contrived, but it's pretty embarrassing to have the exact script out there for everyone to see. Plus, DeSantis is an absolutely terrible actor, one who can't effectively sell a personal anecdote story even when people don't know it's pre-planned. And when people are watching for it, along with the "emotion" called for by the script? We're talking Golden Raspberry time, here. Paul Begala is already calling him RonBot 2.0.

We don't know what it is with these Florida governors who want to be president, but boy howdy do they run terrible presidential campaigns. Indeed, of the 10 largest U.S. states by population, Florida is the only one never to have produced a U.S. president. Maybe Donald Trump will (technically) change that next year, but if not, it could be a while. (Z)

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