Every so often there’s a headline in the news that seems so absurd on the surface that one can’t help but scoff at it – but then, after thinking about the subject for a few moments, it becomes more plausible and reasonable.
Such was the case the other day when a feature caught my attention. In “Sen. DeSantis? Some observers float 2024 Plan B for Florida governor”, Ryan King reported at the Washington Examiner that some Republicans are pushing Ron DeSantis to wait until 2028 to run for president instead of taking on what appears to be a possibly unstoppable Donald Trump in the 2024 GOP primaries.
Their thinking goes, rather than getting beaten to a rhetorical pulp by Trump this year – and appearing disloyal to Trump’s tens of millions of dedicated “only Trump” backers in the process -- Gov. Ron could run for senate and bide his time in the upper chamber laying waste to “Chucky” Schumer, “Pocahontas” Warren, Bernie Sanders and Dick Blumenthal while establishing a legislative background to go with his years as governor of the Sunshine State. He’d basically be setting himself up as a practical shoe-in for the 2028 GOP nomination.
Sounds great, right? But Florida conservative senator Rick Scott currently occupies the seat, and Scott’s already announced his run for reelection. Therefore, DeSantis would need to beat Scott in what could be a messy primary race down south. And no conservative would want to see strife of that type in a presidential ballot year when the GOP will need Florida desperately.
It goes without saying, DeSantis could simply opt not to run this cycle, finish out his second term as governor in Florida (which runs through 2026) and initiate his presidential run in early 2027 as the incredibly successful former leader of one of the nation’s most prosperous states. From a political standpoint, Gov. Ron wouldn’t necessarily gain anything of value from ousting Rick Scott and toiling a few years in the Senate before mounting his presidential bid.
And DeSantis’s presidential prospects wouldn’t dim, either, if he was no longer an officeholder in his home state.
Needless to say, if DeSantis bowed out of the 2024 presidential race before officially getting in it, his name would remain in the hopper for consideration as Trump’s vice president, though with the heat of the former president’s rhetoric of late, that possibility is dwindling by the day. With Trump going on TV telling about how DeSantis was in tears begging for his endorsement (in 2018), there’s bound to be bad blood between the two. How long the angst lasts will ultimately be up to Trump, and all of this, of course, is assuming Trump will remain the frontrunner in the 2024 GOP primaries.
Should DeSantis run for senate instead of president? I don’t think it’s a wise move. Again, even if Gov. Ron decided against a 2024 White House run, there are other, better options than “settling” for a senate battle within his own party. Who’s to say DeSantis couldn’t accept a position in the new administration as a cabinet officer and lead the Republican party on an issue of pressing national concern, like school choice?
Or, DeSantis could simply stay the present course and run for president. There are those devising strategies for him. In a piece titled “Stormy Daniels and Karl Rove Know How to Beat Trump (A real strategy for Ron DeSantis.)”, Jack Shafer wrote at Politico Magazine:
“Trump’s vulnerabilities reside in his positives, and that’s where DeSantis should probe for cracks and fissures. This is no independent discovery. GOP campaign strategist Karl Rove was famous for eroding an opponent’s strengths. For example, under the Rove lens during the 2004 presidential campaign, patriotic war veteran Sen. John Kerry… ‘Sometimes people’s strengths turn out to be really big weaknesses,’ Rove told Fox News in 2007. ‘We tend to — you know, people tend to sometimes in campaigns accentuate things that they think are big and important, and they exaggerate them.’
“What are Trump’s positives? In his campaign 2016 kickoff, he promised, ‘I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall,’ and continued to praise his wall throughout the 2020 campaign. The wall turned out to be a Potemkin affair, with PolitiFact finding in 2020, ‘What the administration has mostly done is replace old and outdated designs with newer and improved barriers.’ DeSantis could easily out-wing and out-demagogue Trump on the border (remember his airlift of asylum seekers to Martha’s Vineyard?) by savaging Trump’s wall as an illusion.”
I know, I know. Enough is enough. I’m not exactly sure who Shafer even is, but his piece on Trump and DeSantis sounded as though it could’ve been from the transcript of a nightly news cable show on MSNBC or CNN. He’s clearly no Trump fan – and most likely no backer of Ron DeSantis either. Shafer must be a rubberstamp liberal establishment media idiot who’s paid to package big government leftism and socialism into a marketable piece of meat for Democrats.
Besides, no Democrat should ever offer advice to any conservative on how to beat Trump. They’ve spent almost eight years trying to do what they’ve purported knowing how to do – and failed miserably – so what makes one think they might be right now?
Despite this, Shafer does bring up a few interesting arguments. He points out DeSantis shouldn’t attempt to hound Trump on his negatives and that it would be fruitless to try and go toe-to-toe with the 2016 winner in a verbal punching bout. Such longshot political ventures would almost certainly conclude in failure, with DeSantis ending up looking like a weakling by attempting to jump a few weight classes only to discover punching upward at Trump is a lot harder than it looks.
Trump has a steel exterior for criticism. He’s faced so many unfair and false charges against him (indictment?), so many witch hunts, so many Hillary Clinton-like “get Trump” investigations, so many phony Democrat smear campaigns and even a healthy dose of vitriol from his own party establishment and the #NeverTrumpers (one and the same?) that such a strategy wouldn’t draw blood much less put DeSantis in the driver’s seat.
Shafer also argued that DeSantis could look to none other than Stormy Daniels for clues on how to defeat Trump, using some of Daniels’ own social media tidbits as examples of how to minimize the former president. Seriously? The Daniels controversy is entirely media created and wouldn’t sway anyone one way or another. And she’s stupid, too.
But taking a page from Rove’s book (as outlined above) and concentrating on Trump’s positives could be worth consideration. (Note: Shafer’s description of phonier-than-thou Sen. John Kerry as a “patriotic war veteran” instantly disqualifies him from providing anything insightful. But we’ll go with it for our purposes here.) As successful as Trump was in capturing the imaginations of MAGA agenda supporters, he also committed a number of unforced errors that threw him off course long enough to cause the effort to fizzle out.
This is where DeSantis could gain leverage on Trump by suggesting that the much older man did a terrific job of establishing the MAGA movement but couldn’t finish the undertaking because of not having the right personnel in place or letting his own personality and temperament get in the way of accomplishing his ultimate goals.
Trump’s highlighting of the immigration issue was one of his introductory points and clearly helped him win the 2016 election, but once in office, he wasn’t able to compel Congress to help fix it. Trump finally gave a bit on DACA to entice Democrats to give ground on the border wall construction as well as to streamline some aspects of legal immigration, but he couldn’t do a whole lot because of DC swamp establishment opposition – mostly to Trump himself.
Would DeSantis have better luck getting Congress to act? Assuming the GOP retains the House after 2024 and retakes a slim majority in the senate, what could Gov. Ron offer that would tip the balance in favor of the conservative pro-enforcement position?
Trump must also produce answers on how his own results would be different this time around, and he’d better come up with something other than a plan to steamroll Congress into bending to his will. The political balance isn’t likely to change all that much between now and January, 2025, so giving voters something they can chew on is important.
Meanwhile, DeSantis continues to win agenda victories in Florida. This week it was his successful push to make the Sunshine State into a bastion for school choice. Anti-woke parental rights and school choice will be a huge issue in 2024, and already DeSantis can hold himself out as a national leader on the subject.
Ron DeSantis holds the key to his own future, and not everything depends on him making a presidential run in 2024. DeSantis’s age and imminently successful tenure as Florida’s governor has already guaranteed him a high place in Republican politics for the foreseeable future. Time will reveal what path Gov. Ron decides to take, and America wins either way.
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