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The Right Resistance: Time to wonder and worry… is Ron DeSantis just not a very good candidate?

Harken back, if you will, to a mere two months ago (actually, not even two complete months, it was May 24, 2023) when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, at long last, announced his candidacy for president in 2024.

One, there was tremendous built-up for DeSantis’s ultimate decision for those who craved a viable alternative to Donald Trump in the 2024 Republican primary race, and two, to test whether many conservatives’ “next in line” candidate would match-up to his billing. Pollsters had pitted DeSantis against Trump for months, and, up until that moment, it had all been speculation as to how he would fare.


Less than sixty days later, the proverbial jury is still out on DeSantis’s political skills vis-à-vis the other GOP candidates, especially Trump himself. But the expected wave of support shifting to DeSantis from the other not-Trump candidates did not materialize, and neither did a gradual migration of a slice of Trump’s backers to the much younger man.


What’s the problem? Could it be DeSantis himself is the barrier to higher polling data on his behalf? In an article titled “Former Trump campaign leaders say DeSantis has ‘candidate problem’”, Brett Samuels reported at The Hill earlier this week:


“Trump 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien and deputy campaign chief and attorney Justin Clark launched a new podcast through their consulting firm, National Public Affairs, on which they opined about DeSantis’s struggles trying to cut into Trump’s polling lead.


“’Campaigns take a lot of blame, you know, during times like this. But I got to say … candidates matter,’ Stepien said. ‘And I think, at this point, at this stage in the primary, the candidate matters more now than at any point over the next year and a half. Because right now it is hand-to-hand combat on the ground,’ he continued. ‘It is shaking hands at county fairs in Iowa, it is sitting in living rooms in New Hampshire. The candidate matters. And I think there’s a candidate problem for Ron DeSantis.’


“’There’s a major candidate problem,’ Clark said. ‘He’s got to fix that. He’s got to do something to engage with people. And I’m talking about policies.’ Clark and Stepien suggested DeSantis needs to ‘lean into policy’ more to engage with voters on issues they care about. They also pointed to the first GOP primary debate in August as a pivotal moment for DeSantis to connect with the electorate.”


This isn’t just mindless speculation, it’s the truth. For those who, earlier this year, surmised that Trump would fade as his legal troubles mounted and also predicted that DeSantis would rise like the Great Pumpkin out of a sincere pumpkin patch on Halloween Eve – they’ve been dead wrong.


Trump continues doing what he’s always done – generate headlines and news coverage – while DeSantis’s campaign is faltering and flopping along like a tire that’s sprung a slow leak that the gas station technician can’t quite diagnose. It’s not time to replace the whole thing, but something needs to supply the “it” factor that’s missing from DeSantis’s bid.


Most conservatives love DeSantis’s penchant for getting things done, but are they truly enamored with the candidate himself? I believe that’s what Stepien and Clark were referring to when talking about a DeSantis “candidate problem”. Lots and lots of political watchers are talking about newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy, for example, but do they offer similarly glowing reviews of DeSantis?


It's not that DeSantis isn’t believable in his gladhanding of Iowa’s and New Hampshire’s locals, but his leadership lacks the “cult of personality’ quality of Trump. Ramaswamy has it too, but he’s too young for a lot of conservatives to consider tossing to the side, especially when Trump is still in the game.


What candidate problem? Going into the 2024 race, the minds behind the potential Ron DeSantis candidacy certainly must’ve figured it would be difficult to step out of the shadow of Donald Trump. Not only had Trump been president for four years prior, but it’s hard to think of a well-known figure in America who is better recognized than Trump. Maybe Elvis or Oprah Winfrey, but the former is dead and the latter only crawls out of her coastal California hole when a “woke” occasion calls her to deliver statements about societal unfairness – or something like that.


Trump was always more than just a politician in the eyes of conservative American voters. At the beginning of Trump’s 2016 run, there was a certain “Look at that!” curious quality to the novel celebrity candidate with a penchant for conducting elaborate ceremonies (such as riding down the escalator at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy) and political events that were one part pep rally, one part stage entertainment and two parts substantive political advocacy.


Trump’s spiel has always been more than just boilerplate politics in a set frame. At the outset, journalists loved asking Trump questions because they knew from experience that Trump would give them an answer. The words weren’t always what they were seeking, but there was never a roundabout avoidance of opinions that would get “normal” politicians in trouble. Contrary to practically every politician in memory, Trump appeared to enjoy attracting and spreading controversy.


The political novelty wore off after a period of time as Trump’s polling lead persisted and even grew. Trump’s only serious competition in his first presidential primary contest was from Ted Cruz, a brilliant legal mind and debate competition champ who never shied away from direct confrontation, but also knew how to articulate political arguments in such a way as to convince people of sincerity.


Ron DeSantis is neither like Trump, nor Cruz. DeSantis built a political resume based on assessing the hottest political topics of the day, concocting doable solutions at the state level and piling up victory after victory. It almost seemed like Governor Ron purposely put smaller matters to the side in order to maximize public relations value on the big ones. Take on the teacher’s unions and “woke” crowd? Check. Go after the big tech censorship monopoly? Check. Draw notice by shipping illegal aliens to Martha’s Vineyard? Check. Run the COVID dictatorship into the ground? Check.


DeSantis wasn’t and has never been a dictator, yet he also figured he had pretty wide latitude to choose his fights and win. With state elected offices mostly in Republican hands and a legislature that wasn’t hesitant to back his boldness, DeSantis laid a blueprint for the rest of the country’s GOP governors to follow. It was almost like a dare – “I did it, why can’t you?”


Any shortcomings DeSantis had – as a candidate – were masked by his overwhelming success. Those Americans who are scoreboard watchers didn’t care that DeSantis lacked the flare of a Trump or the amazing bulging personality of someone like Mike Huckabee – or the political heft of a Ted Cruz. Or even the edginess of some of today’s “fighter” politicians like Matt Gaetz or Marjorie Taylor Greene (or on the left, Nancy Pelosi or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). Or the “good guy” reputation (no matter how phony) of a Joe Biden.


DeSantis had the credentials and the resume, a photo op worthy family and a wife who can draw a crowd just to listen to her story. But what was missing? DeSantis isn’t a bad interview – he’s smart (Ivy League educated), seriously accomplished (founding member of the House Freedom Caucus) and contains an innate ability to highlight issues and solutions.


But is he… boring? I wouldn’t necessarily say so, but compared with Trump, anyone looks pale and lackluster by comparison. DeSantis makes an immigration speech and everyone figures he means what he says about devising solutions, but his events lack the theatrical quality of Trump’s. And Trump doesn’t need to do a whole lot of retail campaigning because he’s already so famous and stands out in a crowd.


DeSantis isn’t exactly mundane or ordinary, but a spoiled electorate wants someone who speaks the common vernacular without appearing snooty or condescending.


This might sound like an overly simple explanation of why DeSantis is struggling, but how else would someone like the Florida governor be having a hard time connecting with people? There probably isn’t a principled, limited government loving conservative in America who doesn’t admire what DeSantis has done is his state, and the aggressive, Trump-like take-no-prisoners approach he’s shown along the way.


Perhaps the impression was greater than reality, or maybe more Republicans felt that it was Trump’s nomination to claim if he wanted to do it again – which clearly he did. It could also be that DeSantis isn’t a poor candidate at all, it’s just that the Trump factor looms too large in today’s political environment. It also might be that, as Samuels suggests, that DeSantis will start his “horse race charge” beginning in a month’s time with the first GOP candidates’ debate (assuming Trump even opts to take part).


For those prone to be overly-judgmental on what’s “wrong” with DeSantis should sit tight for a little while and see what happens. Lots of commentators have predicted that Trump’s luster would eventually fade, and as Governor Ron becomes better known, his personal attributes may shine through.


Regular followers of American politics realize a presidential race can turn on a dime, and that’s exactly what could happen this fall when voters buckle down and assess the candidates in the 2024 Republican presidential contest. Declaring that Ron DeSantis has a “candidate problem” is just a tad premature, and saying he’s already finished is flat out wrong. There’s a long way to go – and nothing to do but wait.



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6 Comments


Trump 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien and deputy campaign chief and attorney Justin Clark. LOSERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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The spoiled electorate is Rush's low information voters!

The real test will come when Trump gets his ass kicked. Will he pick up his marbles and go home? My guess is, he screws the country by going third party


On behalf of Lyin' Ted's dad, the assassin and R Desanctimonious, a wildly successful LEADER at the same time the US President was getting his butt rolled by a sawed-off Dego punk and every candy-ass general in DC,


please consider this:


donnie chump Trump,

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"Charlie Whiskey"

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This is nonsense. De Santis is insanely popular in FL, engages people very well, and is far more into policy than Trump. What happened is that Trump's numbers went off the charts when people realized that the Biden admin has weaponized several depts, MSM and big tech to attack him.

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I'm sorry, but when DeS. started adds that clearly LIED about Trump .. that LOST ME and I can tell you a great number of other people ( voters ) too!

We are tired of LIES ... especially those that are so easily BUSTED!

IF DeS, had / has to put out adds that are clearly LIES and / or ... OUT OF CONTEXT. He is no different than any other RINO.

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Replying to

Projection. The ads attacking De Santis were far more unfair.

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You spent 95% of the column on the possible negatives and only acknowledged that it may be too soon to judge in your last couple paragraphs. The fact is, it is too soon to judge. A lot of campaigning has yet to take place. Let's give it time.

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