“Low energy Jeb” (Bush). “Little Marco” (Rubio). “Lyin’ Ted” (Cruz). “1 for 41 Kasich”. “Crooked Hillary” (Clinton).
Fans of political lore will always remember the 2016 Republican presidential primary -- and then general election -- campaign for its intensity and nastiness, but also for its colorful nicknames and, looking back years later, twisted sense of humor. Those of us who weren’t immediately big fans of outsider Donald Trump resented his playful and pointed insults at his familiar opponents, but the candidate was merely doing what every highly paid establishment consultant tells his or her client to accomplish: brand your opponents before he or she brands you. It’s not hard to recall how Trump’s intraparty competitors worked just as hard to do the same to him, bringing up the lifelong real estate developer’s numerous personal and business snafus -- such as this poignant ad from Ted Cruz on Trump’s defense of eminent domain -- only to get stung by Trump’s furious counter blows. Trump was, is, and always will be a showman. That’s why the media loved him during the GOP primary fight and continued to feature his face and doings during his four years in the White House. The establishment’s media keepers couldn’t get enough of Trump, even if they hated him and wanted him to fail and be disgraced. Now many of the same journos and TV producers are desperately attempting to generate some more good ol’ fashioned Trump animosity towards Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The 43-year-old first term chief executive from the sunny south has evolved into a potential competitor should Trump decide on another presidential run (which all signs indicate that he will). Therefore, the gossip mongers are doing everything in their power to make it look like the two Republican leaders are sizing each other up -- and not liking what they see. Who knows? Maybe they’re hoping Trump will attach a new and catchy nickname to DeSantis. Conservatives aren’t buying the overly contrived drama, however. Mollie Hemingway wrote last week at The Federalist:
“It’s fair to say that as successful as Trump was in transforming some of the party’s policies and approaches, the Republican establishment views his presidency as a mere interruption of their control of the party. They don’t particularly like his focus on working-class concerns and away from interventionist foreign policy.
“They didn’t disappear, and they are lying in wait to resume the place at the table they believe they’re entitled to. To that end, the continued success of conservative populism is viewed as a threat. They know voters love Trump and DeSantis, so they are hoping to divide one or both men from the Republican electorate.
“Whether it comes from the media or establishment figures, a Trump-DeSantis fight at this juncture serves the political enemies of conservative voters. They should heed DeSantis’s encouragement to focus on the work needed to secure not just electoral wins in November. If Republican voters want more politicians like Trump and DeSantis, and they clearly do, they should make sure to nominate them in key primaries before the November election.”
Prominent conservatives such as Richard Viguerie have pounded the concept for years: “It’s the primaries, stupid.” The state party level contests are where it’s really at in those places where Republicans are all-but guaranteed to win if they stick together and nominate candidates that excite the grassroots. It’s only when the Washington establishment -- the Karl Rove’s of the world -- start sticking their noses where they’re not wanted that problems arise.
This time, the establishment and the always contemptuous media appear to want to start early on 2024 by pitting two of the Republican Party’s main potential players against each other before the race even begins. But it ain’t happenin’, folks.
Last week my esteemed colleague George Rasley wrote on the media’s trumped up alleged budding cold war/feud between Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis -- that it was “fake news,” something most sensible Republicans outside of The Lincoln Project offices and The Bulwark magazine assume is the truth. Rasley’s perspective is taken from his thorough knowledge and understanding of Florida’s internal politics, where “folks in the know” assure him there’s no way that DeSantis is planning a presidential run at this point. Instead, Ron is concentrating on supporting his beautiful and loving wife Casey through her cancer treatments while bloodying the noses of his in-state opponents at his day job.
That, and the governor has a reelection race that requires his full and undivided political attention. The popularity of Democrats in Florida is sinking like a stone in an alligator infested swamp in the Everglades, but that’s not to claim that this year’s gubernatorial election is a sure thing for the Republican incumbent star. No one should forget that the past several statewide elections for the state chief executive have been razor close, including DeSantis’s victory over lightweight Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum in 2018, which was decided by less than half a percentage point and about 32,000 votes.
Remember how Gillum was subsequently found drunk in a hotel room with drugs everywhere and two other men (one of them a “male escort”) a couple years back? What a loser! And to think, Gillum could’ve been governor instead of DeSantis. Talk about elections having consequences. Sheesh.
Former governor and now senator Rick Scott’s 2014 reelection bid was also fairly close, with Scott prevailing by 1 percentage point and 63,000 votes over wishy-washy Republican turned Democrat political opportunist Charlie Crist (who might be DeSantis’s opponent again this year). In other words, if DeSantis says he’s got a conflict on his hands, he means it.
Democrats have worked overtime to paint DeSantis as a greedy and uncaring Republican cold-hearted killer during the COVID-19 pandemic. To the left, DeSantis has been public enemy number one (well, besides Trump) on the topic. Liberals despise him -- this can’t be emphasized strongly enough. Remember how The View’s nasty old liberal hag Joy Behar called the Florida governor a “negligent homicidal sociopath” because he, get this, banned mask mandates in schools? The governor’s success in holding the COVID death numbers in his territory significantly below blue states has drawn the ire of Democrats everywhere.
There’s nothing like good, effective government to get the dystopian COVID screamers anxious.
Because DeSantis has favored a freedom-centered approach as well as done battle with Democrats and leftists (same thing) and teachers unions on just about every topic of consequence today, his political opposition is national in scope, extremely well-funded and primed to do everything possible (and possibly illegal?) to defeat him.
To suggest that DeSantis is ignoring his wife’s illness and his legitimate campaign challenges at home is not only callous, it’s outright false. If Donald Trump runs again in 2024, here’s thinking the Florida governor will give the former president his full blessing and work his tail off to ensure that the Sunshine State’s electoral votes stay right where they’ve been the past couple presidential election cycles. Registered Republicans now outnumber registered Democrats in Florida. The trend is in large part due to Trump and DeSantis.
There’s nothing to see here. At all. So why is the media making hay over the subject?
First, they’re desperate to talk about Trump, while they’re simultaneously hoping to get in digs at DeSantis at the same time. What better way to generate instant, eye-attracting headlines than to put Trump’s and DeSantis’s name in the same sentence and imply that two of the most prominent members of the Republican hierarchy are mad at and distrustful of one another?
Two, the media has grown tired of other Republican “fight” stories like that between Trump and losers like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. Conservatives don’t want to have anything to do with the RINOs in Congress and there’s no new and fresh angle to try and spin the animosity between the former president and his few remaining detractors in Congress.
Three, Trump has all-but proven that he can have the 2024 GOP nomination if he wants it. The former president travels the country, does frequent interviews and acts like he never left office. He doesn’t fly from place to place on Air Force One any longer, but he still carries the stature of a president. The foreign press still loves to cover him, too.
Four, Democrats are boring. CNN’s ratings are hideous compared to last year’s. Constantly attempting to make senile Joe Biden look competent resulted in audiences tuning them out in droves. Common sense factors in at some point. When economic conditions are bad out there and the country believes things are on the wrong track… why not switch over to talking about Trump and DeSantis? It gets folks animated.
Finally, though it’s almost a sure thing Trump is going to run again, no one knows who he will choose for a running mate. DeSantis would make for a logical choice. If the media depicts them as potential rivals and enemies, there’s a story there, right?
No one doubts Donald Trump’s ability to manipulate the establishment media, yet folks still chase rumors when he’s mentioned alongside potential Republican competitors like Ron DeSantis. By the looks of it, the two get along fine and genuinely like each other, but it doesn’t prevent the media from spreading half-truths and innuendo to imply there’s a problem between them. Don’t fall for it.
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