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DeSantis' Campaign Actually Achieved Something--It Made Him a Lame Duck in Florida

Ron DeSantis' campaign has exposed him as a paper tiger (paper duck?). Republican officials in Florida have taken note and no longer fear him. Among lobbyists, lawmakers, consultants, and others in Florida, almost everyone expects his presidential campaign to end in abject failure. Best case scenario might be something like coming in second only 50 points behind Donald Trump and with only a handful of delegates won in the few states that have proportional allocation. Everyone is waiting for him to drop out. There is great interest, however, in how he manages his exit when he finally does drop out. And who he blames.

DeSantis has governed Florida like Joseph Stalin governed the Soviet Union. Compromise was not on the agenda—ever. Florida Republican leaders feared DeSantis not only for what he could do to them as governor, but also what he could do to them as president. The current thinking is that he is never going to be president, so there is no need to fear what he could do to them from the Oval Office.

For example, up until now, DeSantis had only to tell the leaders of the Florida House and Senate what he wanted, and they obediently scurried off to carry out his orders. State Rep. Daniel Perez (R), who is in line to become speaker of the Florida House, said: "The problem with wielding the power of government like a hammer is that the people start looking like nails." He made it clear that those days are over. From now on, the legislature, and not DeSantis, will decide what bills get passed.

DeSantis got a lot done in his first 4½ years as governor. He suspended elected officials, strong-armed his own party into approving a congressional map even more gerrymandered than the one they drew (and which may well be struck down by the courts), and picked fights with the House of Mouse and the cruise line industry. How those play out remain to be seen.

A major Florida lobbyist said: "There's no love lost between the Legislature and DeSantis. ... They are faking it. They are waiting long enough to see the king drained of all his power. It's a slow-motion coup."

It is starting already. Last week, the trustees at Pasco-Hernando State College, a small public college near Tampa, rejected DeSantis' candidate for president of the college and picked their own candidate. It is surprising because a majority of the trustees are DeSantis appointees. Once word gets out that not only does the emperor have no clothes, but that the batteries in his magic wand are empty and he doesn't know where to get new ones, he is going to be a full-blown lame duck. One Florida lawmaker said: "Few members of the Legislature have a relationship with Ron DeSantis. He's like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain. You can't get to him. All you hear about is the great and powerful Oz." This mirrors DeSantis' behavior when he was a congressman. He had nothing to do with the other Florida Republicans in the House. He doesn't like people. It turns out in politics, that eventually comes out.

State Rep. Vicki Lopez, a Miami Republican, said: "I remember a time when the House was the House, the Senate was the Senate, and oh, by the way, there's the governor's office on the plaza level [of the state Capitol]." Those days may be returning. (V)

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