DeSantis would be wise to drop out now
This is a commentary that I never thought I would be writing. As a Republican voter who would prefer to have a GOP standard bearer for 2024 other than President Trump, I initially saw Florida Governor DeSantis as the ideal candidate to do the job.
DeSantis came off of the 2022 election – which was generally understood to be underwhelming for the GOP –as the most successful candidate in America. He won by record margins over Democrat Charlie Crist – winning in the Democrat strongholds of Miami-Dade, Osceola and Palm Beach counties. He brought in a Republican red wave across the state.
He had everything going for him – good looks, articulate, beautiful family and seemingly a winning platform. He was the one candidate who would have – and should have – limited the number of other Republican candidates – a critical necessity to beat Trump.
In past commentaries, I expressed my opinion that DeSantis should get into the race – even as other pundits and journalists were advising otherwise. He did enter and initially had an instant 20 percent support base – enough to make him a serious challenger to Trump.
Unfortunately, DeSantis lost ground instead of gaining it. From an initial 20-point deficit, DeSantis fell to a 30 and 40-point deficit. I do not believe it was Trump’s attacks and pugnacious name-calling that caused DeSantis’ decline. Rather, it was due to a mishandled campaign from the onset. If there was a planned strategy, it was not apparent – or it was certainly not a good one.
DeSantis’ first mistake was waffling on the Trump issue. He attempted the impossible – making a case for replacing Trump while refusing to articulate key differences – refusing to criticize. He set out wanting to be Trump-lite. Zeroing in on Trump’s base was a mistake. He needed to build his own base.
DeSantis could have overcome such early missteps – and he did recognize a problem and change his campaign management team. It did not improve the situation. In fact, it is arguable that DeSantis made more serious strategic blunders with the new team in place.
He was spot-on in terms of his general position on issues, but overzealous in the presentation – and the messaging. His fight to keep sex and gender issues out of the government-run school curriculum was a winning issue, but he got ambushed by the political correctness posse. Same with the Critical Race Theory controversy.
DeSantis had a golden opportunity to go after Disney’s woke policies and political activism, but he went too far – shifting the political gravitas in Disney’s favor. Several megadonors expressed their dissatisfaction over the Disney feud by pulling out.
Because of his ill-conceived targeting and execution, DeSantis did not cut into the Trump base, as he seemed to think he could. He did not coalesce the GOP voters open to someone other than Trump. He did not gain among the clearly anti-Trump Republican voters. He did not prevent other challengers from entering the race and dividing up the anti-Trump vote. Consequently, he is now far behind Trump, and not very far ahead of a number of his challengers.
After the first debate, a couple of challengers – specifically former South Carolina Governor and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy — improved their positions significantly. DeSantis held on to a no loss/no gain result.
Whether any of the other GOP candidates can beat Trump in the primaries is questionable – and certainly not if they keep dividing up the vote. Some of the candidates will drop out in the near future. I think Haley is more likely to benefit the most. Not DeSantis.
Based on the age of President Biden as an example, DeSantis could run for President in the next seven presidential cycles, up to 2052.
I still believe DeSantis would be a great President – a better officeholder than campaigner. I just no longer believe that 2024 is his opportunity year. My advice to DeSantis would be to withdraw and endorse Haley. That would instantly make her a very formidable candidate. Should she win — which I believe she would, especially against Biden – DeSantis would be the preemptive candidate for Vice President – and ideally situation for 2032. Hmmmm. A Haley/DeSantis ticket. That should scare the hell out of Biden & Company.
So, there ‘tis.