DeSantis’ weakness as a Trump killer brings the blood to his GOP rivals
No seasoned and successful politician runs for president without a theory of the case – a detailed and plausible path to victory. And as more potential candidates surface, it becomes increasingly clear what is at the heart of those plans: a growing belief within the party that DeSantis is a paper tiger.
At one point, the Florida governor seemed like the best-positioned candidate to unseat Trump, en route to finishing off President Joe Biden. DeSantis was Trump without the baggage — and 32 years younger.
He had just won an epic 2022 re-election victory in the nation’s third-largest state, marked by Florida’s biggest margin of victory in 40 years. Officials from both parties did a double take on his strong performance among all Latino groups.
With DeSantis, the GOP could get the same conservative policies as Trump, the same hardline approach, the same judges, the same trolling libs. He was party leader on Covid. The suburbs would be back in play. So would the five states that Biden toppled from Trump in 2020.
But DeSantis’ Disney jihad and stumble over Ukraine and a territorial dispute have undermined his aura of competence among donors and the business community. Trump’s relentless attacks — none of them answered — and his drumbeat of abuse have left the two-term governor bruised. Far from projecting his strength, DeSantis suddenly emerges as a candidate who has thrived in a protective cocoon, isolated from media scrutiny and surrounded by a docile legislature afraid to test him.
On the eve of his launch, DeSantis is now faced with the perception that he is a porcelain, enameled and decorative candidate, durable enough, but not really built to withstand the brutal impact of Trump’s hammer or outright fury. of a united democratic party.
Still, the idea that DeSantis is ripe for a pullout is only part of the reason the presidential race suddenly seems so enticing. In the three years since Trump lost re-election, there is little evidence to suggest he can win back the White House and plenty of evidence to suggest he will lead the party to win with him.
That’s what a sane part of the GOP political operative class — and the donor class — believes. Most of Trump’s main rivals think so too. Some of them, like Christie, are ready to say it out loud.
“Donald Trump has done nothing but lose since he won the election in 2016. We lost the House in 2018. The Senate and the White House in 2020. We underperformed in 2022 and lost more governors and another seat in the Senate”, he said in a recent radio interview.
DeSantis says so privately. According to a New York Times report, the governor told supporters and donors on a Thursday call that Trump couldn’t win, stressing “all the data in the swing states, which isn’t great for the former president and probably insurmountable because people aren’t going to change their view of him.”
In that context, it’s not a bad bet to jump in now in hopes of filling the role DeSantis was once meant to fill. But there is a sense of urgency: Any newcomers must come in before DeSantis has a chance to use his considerable resources to make it a two-way primary with Trump. The countdown begins next week.