Five Questions about DeSantis' Campaign
Ron DeSantis is expected to file the paperwork to run for president this week. A formal announcement will then follow
within a couple of weeks at most. A bid by DeSantis raises at least
- Trump: The biggest question of all is how hard DeSantis will attack Donald Trump.
Pretending that the obvious frontrunner doesn't even exist is a strange strategy. It is a given that Trump will savagely
attack him once he is in. In fact, Trump is already savagely attacking DeSantis (more on this later this week). Will the
Governor fight back? If so, how hard? So far, all he has said is that Trump is a loser, but that hasn't worked at all.
Trump's base would clearly prefer voting for a guy they love even if he is going to lose rather than voting for a guy
they dislike even if he might win. For much of Trump's base, it is about loving the candidate, not about winning.
DeSantis doesn't understand this. For him, it is all about winning. He'll say whatever he has to say to win. Nothing he
says means anything to him. He'll change on a dime if he has to, since he has no core beliefs. There is a great danger
for him that the voters pick up on this.
- Campaigning: DeSantis hates retail campaigning. He doesn't like schmoozing with voters or
donors. He doesn't like eating ethnic foods, even with his fingers. He doesn't like kissing babies. He doesn't even like
addressing rallies. He would prefer that his campaign staff make up ads and run them on TV and the Internet without
bothering him. That's how he won in Florida. That DOES. NOT. WORK. in Iowa or New Hampshire. There the voters want to
meet and talk to each candidate personally two or three times before making a decision. His staff can tell him this
until the pigs come home (in Iowa) but will he be able to fake it successfully? Every time he makes a mistake (e.g.,
refusing to eat a pork chop on a stick at the Iowa State Fair) it will be front page news all over the state. Reporters
will be looking to trip him up. How well will he do outside his comfort zone?
- Donors: How will the big donors react to his candidacy? So far, DeSantis is all about the
culture wars. But the big donors don't give a hoot about where the woke goes to die. Most of them don't give a rat's a**
about who uses which bathroom or which pronouns. They don't even care about abortions. But they care a lot about a
candidate's attitude toward business. Some of them also care about the war in Ukraine and are not big fans of Russia or
communism. DeSantis' pro-Russia views could be a problem with the donors. Also, they care a lot about return on
investment. Throwing money away on a candidate who can't win the presidency is not high on their to-do lists. At least one
of his big donors, Ken Griffin, is having second thoughts about DeSantis on account of his remarks about Ukraine. What
does DeSantis do when he discovers the big donors are pro-Ukraine and the base is pro-Russia? He's not used to this kind
of problem. He'd better get used to it fast.
- The Culture Wars: DeSantis' whole persona is about the culture wars. The problem is that
such a position doesn't really distinguish him from Trump and the other Republican primary candidates. All of them
oppose abortion. All of them oppose critical race theory. All of them oppose trans women using the ladies' room. What
makes him special? By making the culture wars the beginning and end of his platform, what will he do when the debate
moderator says: "Raise your hand if you oppose abortions" and all of them do? Also, by making his candidacy all about
the culture wars and nothing else, how will this play with independents in the general election? If general-election
horse race polls show Biden beating him solidly in November, how will this affect Republican primary voters? In short,
will DeSantis turn out to be a one-trick pony? And a not-that-special trick, at that?
- What if he wins the primary?: Suppose DeSantis narrowly wins the GOP primary and Trump
says he was cheated. Will Trump go gentle into that good night? We have our doubts. Suppose Trump tells his supporters
to stay home on Election Day. How will DeSantis handle that? Worse yet, how will DeSantis handle it if Trump decides to
run as an independent, or on the Constitution Party ticket? (The Libertarian Party is unlikely to accept Trump because it
has principles and he opposes all of them.)
Interesting questions, all of these. The answers will determine how well DeSantis does. Being high-profile isn't enough.
In 2008, Rudy Giuliani thought it was. He learned quickly otherwise. That could easily be DeSantis' fate if he blows it on
any of the above. (V)
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