Ho hum, another week, another establishment media endeavor to fan the flames of discontent in the Republican party.
Having failed – miserably – to prolong the notion that all non-establishment Republicans hate each other during the new House majority’s struggle to elect a Speaker a month ago, and the House’s subsequent actions demonstrating that GOPers seem to be getting along swimmingly under the newly invigorated (new and improved?) and refreshingly combative leadership of Kevin McCarthy, the biased media talkers appear to be desperately searching for a new GOP-based controversy they can sink their swamp fangs into.
Is it time to return to an old standard? What about Donald Trump? Drop his name and heads turn, anger levels rise, Democrats gain in stature and the world seems whole again. Or so they think. Add in the man who apparently will be Trump’s main 2024 rival, and you’ve got a combination of all the right discord ingredients! Bring the concoction to a boil and cover for twelve minutes, then drain and add butter!
In a piece titled “Trump-DeSantis rivalry approaches boiling point”, Max Greenwood reported at The Hill:
“The long-simmering tensions between former President Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) are nearing a boiling point amid signs that DeSantis and his team are actively moving toward a 2024 presidential run.
“DeSantis’s national ambitions have long irked Trump, who sees himself as the Florida governor’s political benefactor and the GOP’s presumptive 2024 nominee. But Trump’s frustration became more apparent over the weekend, when he called out DeSantis during his first major campaign swing.
“’If he runs, that’s fine. I’m way up in the polls. He’s going to have to do what he wants to do, but he may run,’ Trump told The Associated Press in an interview after a campaign appearance in South Carolina on Saturday. ‘I do think it would be a great act of disloyalty because, you know, I got him in. He had no chance. His political life was over.’”
Huh? Does this really amount to reaching a “boiling point”? To me, it sounds more like the water’s just been added to the pot and the gas turned on, initiating the agonizingly slow slog towards 212 degrees that everyone endures when waiting to cook spaghetti. It’s not exactly the water reaching its apex, put it that way. Talk about hyperbole.
You can’t help but think that some of the establishment media’s reporting on the supposed budding Trump/DeSantis rivalry is due to, for lack of a better way to put it, boredom, and also a need to fill column space or airtime on a liberal cable talk show while incorporating the former president’s last name. Have you noticed the pattern?
It goes something like this: Trump is asked about DeSantis and the upcoming 2024 GOP primary race by some talker who hopes he’ll say something inflammatory; the former president relays what he considers provocative, and the media immediately runs to the Florida governor to see how he reacts to what Trump said.
DeSantis, as he’s trained himself to do, then deflects the verbal jab and emphasizes, for the thousandth consecutive time, that he’s focused on doing his job as governor of The Sunshine State and hasn’t even thought about what Trump mentioned in his latest salvo. Meanwhile, DeSantis’s campaign brains are jotting down everything Trump utters to study and formulate answers to in the upcoming campaign. Kind of like a football coach studying endless hours of film on the next game’s opponent, they’re anticipating Trump’s every move.
Meanwhile, I’m convinced that DeSantis hasn’t yet made up his mind whether he’s going to launch a campaign even if all the indicators point earnestly to a “yes” answer. As perhaps his generation’s most astute political student, DeSantis understands what he’s seeing now is just a preview of what’s to come if he becomes Trump’s main primary competitor in the 2024 race.
Perhaps DeSantis should call Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio for first-hand accounts of what it’s like to be members of the same party team as Trump yet still have your “teammate” taking cheap shots at you behind your back – and to your face. Remember how Trump made comments about Cruz’s wife and father in the latter part of the ‘16 campaign? That’s about the moment where things got really personal – and nasty.
At the same time, by suggesting that DeSantis is being “disloyal” to him by even contemplating a 2024 run, Trump’s trying to stir the pot while also planting a seed in some voters’ minds that the Florida governor is selfish, ambitious (in a bad way) and untrustworthy. Will the charge stick? With the mood of the electorate these days, I don’t think so.
By attacking DeSantis in such an unrefined way, Trump risks further alienating the Republican voters he needs to impress the most – namely, the ones who remain skeptical of Trump the candidate, not his policies.
Picture it this way: If Trump could stand behind the Resolute Desk with a stack of papers labeled “policy successes” and smile broadly for the camera and not say a thing, Republican voters would get warm feelings about the Trump years and give said photos an extremely high rating. But as soon as the sound is turned on and Trump starts griping about the 2020 election being stolen or some other injustices he was subject to (perceived or otherwise), folks are reminded of his “dark side” and re-up their “not again” stances against another Trump presidency.
Rather than state, for the umpteenth time, that he “made” DeSantis into what the governor is today – which contains an element of truth (in terms of Ron winning his 2018 election in Florida) -- Trump could merely phrase it more like, “I helped Ron DeSantis win in Florida and I’m as proud of that achievement as I am anything else I did. Ron has done a terrific job. I’m ecstatic that I was part of it.
“But, as accomplished as DeSantis is in Florida, he hasn’t needed to fight very hard to get what he wanted on a multitude of problems, such as immigration. Ron has enjoyed a solid Republican majority in the Florida legislature. It’s much simpler for him to get practically whatever he asks for. He’s never had to deal with the likes of nasty Nancy Pelosi and cryin’ Chuck Schumer telling endless lies about him like I did in Washington.
“He also hasn’t experienced just how large the federal budget problems really are. He hasn’t stared Kim Jong Un right in the eyes and known what to say when Vladimir Putin sits across from him.
“Ron DeSantis is an awesome governor, but he hasn’t been president. I have. There won’t be much of a re-learning curve for me. And I know all the Washington players as well as national business leaders so I can get qualified people in place right away. And, again, since I’ve already had four years to get things right – and learned from my mistakes – I’ll be in a better position to assess talent for my new administration.
“Ron DeSantis is a fine man with a beautiful wife and three cute-as-a-button kids. But he’s not as qualified as I am to be the next president, especially in these times when Joe Biden has been worse than anyone ever anticipated and the country is in such dire shape.”
Wouldn’t this “reasonable” sounding Trump be a breath of fresh air? It would probably take him saying this or something similar about twenty times to convince skeptics that he’d grown up since the 2020 campaign, but eventually some of the new attitude would sink in for conservative voters – and they might even be open to giving him another chance.
What Trump can’t afford to do is embark on a very Trumpian scorched earth campaign to make DeSantis look like the lead clown in a very dysfunctional circus. For instance, he can’t say anything personal about Casey DeSantis, who is not only elegant and poised and a recent cancer survivor but also is clearly the very embodiment of motherhood, femininity and presence. When you think of what a First Lady should be, think of Casey DeSantis… and Melania Trump.
Trump similarly shouldn’t assail DeSantis’s weight – or really anything other than the few areas that Ron lacks, like worldwide experience. Much to Trump’s chagrin, DeSantis doesn’t leave the door cracked to assaulting him personally like “Crooked” Hillary Clinton did. Or Jeb (I’m boring and low energy) Bush. Or (insert any Democrat’s name here, since they’re all phony and truth-challenged).
If the former president is to succeed, he’s going to need to alter his approach to campaigning – give voters a pretext to like him rather than a ton of reasons to despise someone else.
Donald Trump must realize by now that the 2024 GOP campaign will be fought over issues as well as the perceived qualifications of the candidates. This isn’t a 2016 redo, no matter how much the media wishes it were. Trump is a different person. So are his potential intraparty challengers. Conservatives want substance and won’t settle for anything less.
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