Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Nasty, Brutish, And Short

Eugene Robinson doesn’t hold out much hope for Ron DeSantis’s run for president.

Most great politicians have the skin of an elephant and the memory of a flea. After all, today’s adversary might be tomorrow’s ally.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has it the wrong way around. That means his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, which he is expected to announce this week, will be interesting. And, unless he evolves, it could be brief.

Polls still show DeSantis as having the best chance to defeat Donald Trump in the GOP race. But they also show his prospects rapidly heading in the wrong direction. RealClearPolitics found in its average of polls that in late February, DeSantis trailed Trump by just 13 percentage points. On Monday, however, Trump led DeSantis by 37 points, with much of the gap having grown in recent weeks.

This trend line is hardly encouraging for DeSantis’s theory of the case. His bet is that Republican voters want a nominee who has a proven track record of enacting conservative policies and who models Trump’s pugnacity but is not burdened with the former president’s mountain of baggage.

Using GOP control of the Florida legislature as though it were a campaign billboard, DeSantis has loosened the state’s gun laws; lowered the threshold for imposing the death penalty; expanded school vouchers; and imposed “anti-woke” restrictions on teachers and administrators at every level of public education, including in the state’s universities. He has made it illegal for doctors to provide gender-transition care for minors. To top it off, he signed a bill establishing a six-week abortion ban, which — if allowed to take effect by the Florida Supreme Court — would be one of the most draconian in the nation.

Ta-da! Yet his poll numbers keep going down, not up.


In a phone call with supporters and donors last week, the New York Times reports, DeSantis argued that he should be the nominee “based on all the data in the swing states, which is not great for the former president and probably insurmountable because people aren’t going to change their view of him.”

But how does he imagine his six-week abortion ban, his law letting Floridians carry concealed firearms without a permit, his attempts to squelch free speech on college campuses, and his death-match against the Magic Kingdom will play in those swing states? Why would suburban women who voted for Joe Biden in 2020 vote for Ron DeSantis in 2024?

Great politicians learn from their mistakes and course correct as necessary. DeSantis seems not to understand that going full-speed ahead is a bad idea if you’re approaching a cliff.

I have always thought — and said it here — that Ron DeSantis’s presidential campaign would limp along to perhaps October, run on fumes through the holidays, and be over by the New Hampshire primary, whereupon he’ll be a term-limited two-term governor of a state in shambles from fleeing college-bound students, farm fields fallow from a lack of labor to work in them, and millions of dollars in hock for legal fees defending his indefensible laws that will be — if justice prevails — struck down by the courts.  He’ll try to challenge Rick Scott for the Senate and that will end up in a nasty battle of right-wing insanity and give a Democrat — if there are any left — a chance to flip the seat. Hey, a guy can dream.

The only reason Ron DeSantis ran for governor in the first place was so that he could build up his cred with the MAGA crowd by ramming through his agenda and thinking it would sell across the country.  But as Mr. Robinson points out, try selling his draconian abortion limits, his big-government bullying of public education and Mickey Mouse, his marginalizing and criminalizing of various races and the LGBTQ community in the suburbs of Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, or even Salt Lake City.  It will prove once again that being a governor and using his terms as a model for a national run doesn’t work.  Just ask Scott Walker, Tim Pawlenty, and Sam Brownback.