One of Florida’s principled limited government constitutional conservative Governor Ron DeSantis’s primary advantages over Donald Trump has been his ability to maintain his cool in the face of Trump’s personal attacks.
DeSantis let “meatball Ron” and Trump’s claims of “disloyalty” roll off his back for the past two or three months as Trump ramped-up his attacks on his perceived #1 competitor for the 2024 Republican nomination for President.
The release of Governor DeSantis’s book, The Courage to Be Free, received great reviews from the conservative press and debuted at number 1 on The New York Times Best Seller list and Amazon's bestsellers list. (It is well worth the read whatever your preferences for President.)
Keeping voters focused on his stellar record as Governor served Ron DeSantis well and drew a sharp and favorable contrast with the voluble former President.
However, with Trump’s possible indictment and arrest looming, Governor DeSantis seems to have lost focus and committed what we consider to be a series of unforced errors.
First, in a news conference during which he said he would do nothing to assist Soros-backed Far Left Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in the political prosecution of Mr. Trump he threw in the comment, "Look, I don't know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair…".
Movement conservatives to Ron: We already know about Trump’s checkered love life and personal foibles, that’s why many of us initially backed Ted Cruz in 2016. We came around to Trump because Hillary Clinton was so dangerous and Trump backed our policies and agenda, not because he suddenly qualified as a church elder. Why antagonize the Trump smear machine to no advantage?
Second, in a wide-ranging interview with Piers Morgan airing today on Fox Nation’s “Piers Morgan Uncensored” but leaked and teased by Mr. Morgan yesterday, DeSantis slammed Trump over his character failings, chaotic leadership style, and for his handling of the COVID pandemic — especially in keeping controversial health chief Dr. Anthony Fauci in his post helping to run the White House coronavirus task force.
DeSantis also slammed Trump’s chaotic, self-obsessed, divisive management style: “I also think just in terms of my approach to leadership, I get personnel in the government who have the agenda of the people and share our agenda. You [employees] bring your own agenda in, you’re gone. We’re just not gonna have that. So, the way we run the government, I think, is no daily drama, focus on the big picture and put points on the board, and I think that’s something that’s very important.”
When Morgan asked DeSantis to cite specific differences between him and Trump, he said: “Well, I think there’s a few things. The approach to COVID was different. I would have fired somebody like Fauci. I think he got way too big for his britches, and I think he did a lot of damage.” Trump even awarded a presidential commendation medal to Fauci in one of his last acts as president, he noted.
Morgan teased the show by observing it was clear that the governor has had enough of Trump’s constant baiting and felt ready to take him on in what could end up being a ferocious battle for the White House.
No doubt that’s true, but the DeSantis team should have been media savvy enough to recognize that while his criticism of Trump helped drive good ratings for “Piers Morgan Uncensored” he’s rowing against the flow of the news cycle this week as Republican voters see Democrat District Attorney Bragg’s politically driven charges as a reason to be sympathetic to Trump.
Plus, while the criticisms DeSantis leveled against Trump would make great attack ads in an Iowa, New Hampshire or Super Tuesday primary – because they are true – they will be lost in the hurricane of Trump vs. Bragg news coming over the next week or two.
Governor DeSantis would have been much better served to keep the focus on his record and on his storybook biography and family life and save the attack ad material for when he’s an official candidate.
Was this week fatal to a Ron DeSantis presidential campaign?
Probably not. He didn’t say he’d been “brain washed” like Michigan Governor George Romney did to torpedo his own candidacy in the 1968 Republican presidential primary race. Nor did he say the tsunami of illegal border crossing was “an act of love” like Jeb Bush did to send conservatives leaping into Trump’s arms in 2016. However, this week helped Piers Morgan a lot more than it helped Ron DeSantis.
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George Rasley is editor of Richard Viguerie's ConservativeHQ.com. A veteran of over 300 political campaigns, including every Republican presidential campaign from 1976 to 2004, he served as a staff member or advance representative for some of America’s most recognized conservative political figures, including Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin and Jack Kemp. A member of American MENSA, he served on the House and Senate staff and on the staff of Vice President Dan Quayle. Rasley is a graduate of Hanover College and studied international affairs at Oxford University's Worcester College.
The Courage to Be Free
2024 GOP field
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg
Piers Morgan interview