Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” Mark 6:4
We’ve seen it all before, a once prominent politician from a certain locale catches political fire and is seemingly loved from coast to coast – everywhere except in his own state or city. The cult of personality being what it is, it’s easy for folks to love what they think a person represents, but the people who know him or her best – that’s a different story. Some voters have long memories and are less prone to forgive transgressions when it’s one of their own at the center of the gossip.
Could this be happening to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis now? I thought DeSantis did reasonably well in the second Republican debate the other night (at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library), but he, once again, did not achieve what observers would label a “breakout performance.” It’ll take days to determine what the national electorate thought, but here’s betting DeSantis’s session won’t alter the 2024 overall balance a whole lot.
Some say that DeSantis’s inability to overtake former President Donald Trump – or even compete with him – is politically damaging him at home in Florida, and could hurt his governing clout going forward. In an article titled “‘Waiting for him to drop out’: DeSantis’ influence nosedives in Florida”, Gary Fineout and Kimberley Leonard reported at Politico:
“Interviews with nearly two dozen lobbyists, political consultants and lawmakers revealed that DeSantis’ struggles as a presidential candidate have already eroded his influence in Florida. There is a widespread expectation that his candidacy will end in failure. His standing at home may depend on how long he slogs forward in the presidential campaign — and how he will manage his exit from the race if he eventually drops out.
“Now, it may be just a matter of time before Florida Republicans, once unflinchingly loyal, seek distance from DeSantis and his hardball governing methods.
“’You don’t get the assumption they are measuring drapes anymore — they are waiting for him to drop out,’ one long-time Republican consultant in Tallahassee said of those working for the governor. The consultant, like others quoted in this story, was granted anonymity to freely discuss the sensitive situation.”
Gee, how unpredictable! A hit piece from left-leaning Politico of all places lecturing conservatives on how Gov. Ron DeSantis is no longer well regarded in his own state! Sure, it’s not like the Politico writers actually delivered these quotes, but the gist is, now that it appears DeSantis will fall short in his quest to win the Republican nomination, his wad is spent and folks in the land of alligators and Mickey Mouse will start putting “Not welcome here” signs up all over the state.
While it’s natural to look away from a perceived “loser”, one wouldn’t conclude someone like DeSantis would lose favor so quickly over a stalled presidential run. If that were the truth, just about everyone who ever ran for the office wouldn’t be popular where they started, wouldn’t they? John McCain ran for and lost the 2000 GOP nod. Was he finished politically in Arizona? Or Mitt Romney in 2008 in his neck of the woods, wherever that may be?
Besides, the presidential race isn’t over yet, and only the opportunists are now dancing on DeSantis’s political tomb. Yes, he may lose, but as soon as it returns to business as usual in the Sunshine State next year, memories of the lost campaign will fade quickly.
That being said, if DeSantis is truly losing “clout” in Florida over what’s transpired on the presidential trail (call me skeptical), it’s likely due to a few perceptible factors.
First, the Never Trump faction in Florida – and elsewhere – is furious with DeSantis for his perceived hesitation and unwillingness to run a scorched earth campaign against the former president. It’s no secret there’s a significant percentage of Republicans who time and again reiterated they don’t like Trump, they’re tired of his spiel, they believe Trump is toxic to the general electorate and is certain to lose because legions of anti-Trump (not necessarily pro-Biden or pro-Democrat) voters will emerge from cracks in foundations and holes in walls to mail-in ballots for the Democrat nominee.
This doubter group saw polls last year and figured that DeSantis, because of his high favorability ratings in state and national polls, was a sure-thing to defeat any functioning human liberals and Democrats throw against him, and, because of this, the race had narrowed to the “we want to win” faction versus the semi-suicidal “choose Trump and die in the lost cause” troop.
The folks in the former company figured Trump was too damaged from January 6 and would further be so weakened from his multitude of legal problems he couldn’t mount an effective campaign that appealed to those who supported Joe Biden in 2020 so as to turn the tables this time. When I disagreed with an acquaintance that Trump was wholly unelectable, he challenged me to go out and find ONE person who voted for Biden that had changed his or her mind and would go for Trump this time.
I hope the poor soul isn’t still waiting, but his hypothetical test is beyond the point. Trump isn’t battling solely against Biden (or whomever the Democrats nominate) any longer. The other side ain’t all that popular either. Trump has grown his margin in the GOP primaries because the establishment media, with their incessant attacks, fixation on January 6th (which, if you’ve been paying attention, was a joke in terms of what the feds claim it was – an “insurrection”) and seeming glee at Trump’s multitude of legal troubles have turned Trump into somewhat of a martyr.
It just goes to show, kick a man who’s down enough and you create a sympathetic character. Trump isn’t the one lofting the majority of the rhetorical ordinance these days, it’s the horrid corporate media and the incompetent Biden-supporting Democrats, who can’t defend their broken-down old goat president without resorting to flat out denial or making excuses for him.
The Never Trump believers must be livid that DeSantis one, didn’t launch his campaign until almost mid-year, which practically paved the way for Trump to dominate the field of fire, to define the Floridian as an establishment stooge and also brand him as someone who didn’t appear to have the stomach to wage a take-no-prisoners-type campaign. And two, even recently, Gov. Ron has shied away from diving into the mud to weaken Trump.
Is this a fair criticism of DeSantis? I don’t think so, but I’m only observing from a distance.
The second factor why DeSantis could have lost clout with his home state citizens is his campaign’s style shortcomings. Simply put, it doesn’t appear as though the governor enjoys day-to-day campaign operations, and it’s a poor reflection on his home state.
One of the residuals from the first GOP debate was, at the end of the program when the candidates were provided time for a closing statement, debate moderator Brett Baier invited DeSantis to deliver his statement and the governor stood for several seconds with a look on his face many described as a “fake” or contrived smile. Once Gov. Ron “woke up” from the stupor, his statement was appropriate and well done.
Question: does this look like a man who relishes the daily back-and-forth, or a person who’s only doing this because someone (DeSantis’s enemies claim his wife Casey put him up to it) made him run? DeSantis is clearly stung by his inability to rise in the polls, and he’s wearing the burden on his face.
Contrast DeSantis’s demeanor with Donald Trump’s, an accomplished actor who never seems tired or to be having a bad day (at least once he’s gotten past the 2020 election). Trump often boasts how he identifies with “average” tradesmen because he’s worked with them on his building projects, etc. DeSantis, on the other hand, comes off as a politician – an effective one, but not approachable. Wanna have a beer with Ron?
Maybe Floridians are taking notice of the distinction.
Third, because he’s been running a national campaign with special emphasis on Iowa, DeSantis could be viewed by some as neglecting his duties to his home state and that he’s altering portions of his message to please other states’ constituencies rather than staunchly defending his own. There are boobirds in every crowd, and now that DeSantis is struggling in his presidential campaign, those critics are emboldened to air their grievances.
This is likely only a temporary phenomenon, as DeSantis has accomplished many great things in Florida and it won’t take much to remind folks of the fact when the time comes. Here’s another Biblical concept: “This too shall pass.” It should comfort Gov. Ron’s fans that nothing lasts forever -- especially in politics.
Lastly, DeSantis has clearly been discouraged by many of his fellow Floridian elected office holders abandoning him to support Trump instead. Some attrition is expected, particularly with Trump and the way the 2020 election turned out, but still, it doesn’t look good for the successful governor of a prosperous state to be overlooked by several notable citizens in his backyard.
Prominent representatives Byron Donalds, Anna Paulina Luna, Matt Gaetz and Cory Mills, among others, didn’t exactly jump off the DeSantis bandwagon to endorse Trump for 2024, but they spoke publicly about their preference. And it’s not helping Gov. Ron’s cause now.
It goes without saying that Donald Trump isn’t exactly welcome in his home domicile (New York City), either. Ron DeSantis will finish his run in the Republican presidential primary race, and, win or lose, will end up just fine with his constituents in Florida. The passions will fade, new causes will be taken up and the Sunshine State governor will still be himself.
And that’s all he needs.
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