Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hasn’t said much about the 2024 race or the man standing in his way for the Republican presidential nomination to date. That changed on Tuesday.
In an interview with Piers Morgan in the New York Post — a Rupert Murdoch owned publication! — DeSantis laid out exactly how he will run against the former president.
(Sidebar: If you think it’s an accident that DeSantis gave one of his first big 2024 interviews to a Murdoch-owned property, it, um, was not. The Fox News primary is still alive and well.)
Let’s go through some of DeSantis quotes — and the messages lurking right underneath them.
“You can’t win with just Republicans. You’ve gotta win with independents and you need to convince some of these Democrats, which I was able to do in Florida, because they’re not woke, they don’t like some of the nonsense going on. They want their streets safe, and they want quality education. So I think you could appeal to people across the canvas.”
The knock on Trump among the politically-minded in the Republican party is that while he remains very popular among Republicans, he has become toxic among independents and Democrats.
In the 2020 election, Trump lost independent voters by 13 points — a stunning turnaround from the 6-point winning margin he enjoyed among the group in his 20216 race against Hillary Clinton.
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One problem with this argument from DeSantis: It’s not entirely clear that the electability argument is a persuasive one for Republicans in this moment. A recent CNN poll showed that 6 in 10 (59%) Republicans said it was most important to them that the party’s next nominee be someone who agrees with them on major issues while 41% said it mattered more that the next nominee could beat President Joe Biden next year.
“One of the things that was interesting about my election is that voters in Florida overwhelmingly thought the country was on the wrong track, but they thought Florida was on the right track. So, they saw the difference in terms of how things are governed. We run big budget surpluses . . . the federal government’s $31 trillion dollars in debt. We’re very tough on crime, the policies in Washington are to be more weak on crime. We believe in being good stewards of the environment, but I don’t want to control everyone’s behavior with some of the stuff that’s going on.”
One of the keys to Trump’s success in the 2016 election was his ability to run as an outsider against ultimate insider Clinton. Clinton became responsible for all the problems people associated with Washington while Trump was able to cast himself as the crusading outsider who would bring a reform-minded approach to the “swamp.”
DeSantis is trying to seize the Trump role — against Trump — in 2024. The idea is that DeSantis has experienced a variety of political and policy successes outside of Washington. Trump, meanwhile, has been part of the problem in Washington. (Note DeSantis citing the $31 trillion federal debt.)
“All I’m interested in doing is getting things done and accomplishing things. I don’t need a title. I don’t need fanfare. I just want to know that if I put my mind to this, if we ever did that, and we’re successful, what could I do to make a difference and that’s what I have to have.”
Trump is famously/infamously (it means “more than famous”) self-focused. His MO is to do what is good for him and those close to him. If that happens to be good for the broader Republican party — or the country! — great. But that is not his main goal nor the first thing that jumps to his mind when considering a decision.
Given that, DeSantis’ line that “I don’t need a title. I don’t need fanfare” seems directed at Republican voters who are sick of Trump always putting himself before the good of the party and the country.
DeSantis is signaling that he will run as a sort of servant leader, which is pretty much the opposite of Trump.
“The approach to COVID was different. I would have fired somebody like Fauci. I think he got way too big for his britches, and I think he did a lot of damage.”
Now this one is VERY interesting — mostly because Trump has also shown he is going to go after DeSantis on how he handled Covid-19 in Florida.
“There are Republican governors that did not close their states,” Trump said recently. “Florida was closed for a long period of time. They’re trying to rewrite history.”
What’s true? DeSantis was one of the last governors to shut down his state amid the Covid-19 pandemic — signaling that he only changed his mind to do so after Trump’s tone about the virus got more serious.
It’s also true that Trump did not fire Fauci, the longtime head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease who became a Republican scapegoat during the pandemic. Trump did hint that he would fire Fauci after the 2020 election (“Don’t tell anybody but let me wait until a little bit after the election,” he said at a rally in Florida just before the vote.) but never pulled the trigger.
While declaring that he would have fired Fauci will be a popular position among Republican voters, it’s not totally clear whether DeSantis can pull it off given that he spent much of the pandemic following Trump’s lead on the virus.
“I also think just in terms of my approach to leadership, I get personnel in the government who have the agenda of the people and share our agenda. You bring your own agenda in, you’re gone. We’re just not gonna have that. So, the way we run the government, I think, is no daily drama, focus on the big picture and put points on the board, and I think that’s something that’s very important.”
This is a similar critique to #3 with a little bit of an added gibe in this line: “The way we run the government, I think, is no daily drama, focus on the big picture and put points on the board, and I think that’s something that’s very important.”
That gets to the heart of how DeSantis plans to differentiate himself from Trump — that he has all the same political views (suspicion of the media, disdain for liberals, rejection of so-called “woke” culture) but in a much more acceptable package.
It’s Trump 2.0 — or Trumpism without Trump. Is it a big enough differentiator for DeSantis to beat Trump — barring any other obvious contrasts? I am skeptical.
“I mean, you can call me whatever you want, just as long as you also call me a winner because that’s what we’ve been able to do in Florida, is put a lot of points on the board and really take this state to the next level.”
DeSantis here is responding the many nicknames put on him by Trump. *(Meatball Ron!) And how is he responding? By touting himself as a “winner” — a direct contrast to the fact that Trump not only lost the 2020 election but that Republicans lost control of the House and Senate during his time in the White House as well.
Expect a lot more talk of being a “winner” and “putting points on the board” from DeSantis. He and his team clearly believe it drives a winning contrast with Trump.
“It’s not important for me to be fighting with people on social media. It’s not accomplishing anything for the people I represent. So, we really just focus on knocking out victories, day after day, and if I got involved in all the undertow, I would not be able to be an effective governor.”
During Trump’s time as president, elected Republicans would regularly muse about how much better off he would be if he just stayed off of Twitter. They viewed it as a distraction — and not a beneficial one — to his presidency.
DeSantis’ mention of social media here is a direct appeal to just those folks — a message that he will be the parts of Trump that they liked without all of the crazy distractions the former president created for himself.
“I want other Republicans to do well. I want them to eclipse me. We’re setting a great standard in Florida, have everyone up their game.”
“You really want to look to people like our Founding Fathers, like what type of character, it’s not saying that you don’t ever make a mistake in your personal life, but I think what type of character are you bringing? So, somebody who really set the standard is George Washington because he always put the Republic over his own personal interest.”
The character thing! DeSantis’ interview with Morgan came as reports were everywhere that Trump would be indicted for alleged hush money payments to a porn star who said she had an affair with him.
DeSantis’ message here is simple: That sort of conduct is not what the Founding Fathers envisioned in the leaders of the country.
It’s an interest tact for DeSantis to take. Trump, despite the supposed social conservatism of the Republican party, has, so far in his political career, been able to pay zero price for his personal, er, foibles.
DeSantis is suggesting here that he won’t put Trump’s personal life out of bounds — which could make for a very interesting next year.
Firing Fauci would have been a purely political (partisan Republican) move. I liked Fauci. DeSantis hired Lapedo as SurgeonGeneral, and he seems like a
conspiracy following quack.
Your written asides add so much to your sauce (or gravy...depending on the Italy your ancestry was from)