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Are Trump and media outlets teaming to create a ‘DeSantis is imploding’ narrative?

AP Photos/File
This combination of photos shows former President Donald Trump, left, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose allies are gaining confidence in his White House prospects as Trump’s legal woes mount. But some Republican officials and MAGA influencers raise concerns about the Florida governor’s readiness for national stage.

At least as far as many Republicans are concerned, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has two major obstacles to overcome if he hopes to become the GOP nominee for president in 2024 and then win the general election. Those obstacles are former President Donald Trump and many of America’s media outlets.

Of course, with the announced indictment of Trump — which most Republicans and many Americans view as a partisan political hit job, and others view as a potential gift to Trump’s reelection chances — it would seem that those “obstacles” could not be further polar opposites as Trump fights to clear his name.

That said, since politics makes strange bedfellows, both Trump and many in the left-leaning mainstream media fear that DeSantis indeed could become the party’s nominee and perhaps go on to be elected president, so they’re carpet-bombing the campaign ground now in a preemptive effort to weaken or cripple his chances.

First, let’s look at the increasing Trump assault on the DeSantis brand. Trump has said — or whined, depending upon who is reporting the story — that, were it not for his endorsement in 2018, DeSantis never would have won the Republican primary for governor or won the election against then-Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Trump is correct on that score. For DeSantis or anyone on his team to deny it would be disingenuous. But then we have to ask, “So what?” Like other politically connected people — or “nepo babies,” as Oscar-winner Jamie Lee Curtis recently mentioned — the favor from the powerful or the family member may get you in the door, but what you do on the other side of it determines your success or failure.

Most fair and unbiased people would acknowledge that since getting that critically important endorsement from Trump, DeSantis has governed successfully, winning reelection handily in 2022, and is considered a “rock star” in the wings for Republicans seeking the “not-Trump” presidential candidate for 2024. And therein lies the rub for Trump. In the former president’s mind, his endorsement “made” DeSantis politically, so how dare he even contemplate running against Trump for the White House?

Most politicians, CEOs, and even actors had doors opened to them by others already in the business, so that type of self-serving loyalty litmus test fails across the board. Once in, it is only natural to climb up the ladder of success and hoist yourself up one rung, or even multiple rungs, at a time.

In 2018, DeSantis was a lawyer, Yale undergraduate, Harvard Law grad and Navy veteran of the Iraq War. He barely beat Gillum, by 0.4 percent of the vote. Again, victory was not possible without Trump’s endorsement. But then, four years later, he won a landslide reelection with almost 20 percent of the vote. He did so because the “rock star” reputation had been building in Republican and independent voting blocs the previous few years, because DeSantis fought against COVID lockdowns, the crippling of small businesses, school shutdowns, vaccine mandates, and the masking of children — dictates from many on the left and in blue states. He took on the infiltration of woke educational agendas and demanded that parents have a voice in the education of their children. He strongly supports law enforcement.

Were it not for the growing possibility that DeSantis will announce a run for president in the next few months, it would be easy to imagine that Trump would be singing praises of DeSantis based upon the governor’s accomplishments and the emergence of the DeSantis brand in the national political arena. But, because DeSantis is perceived to be a major threat to Trump’s reclaiming the Republican nomination, the former president has unleashed his full “bully-belittle machine” against DeSantis. 

From Trump, we transition to some from the left-of-center mainstream media. At first, it might seem inconceivable that anyone in the media would even inadvertently help Trump, whom they truly despise. But then the ancient proverb, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” kicks into play. “My enemy,” in this case, is DeSantis.

Even a basic internet search reveals that many from the mainstream media evidently believe Trump can lose in 2024. I would not necessarily agree, given Trump’s shocking victory in 2016 and the Democrats’ uncertain ticket for next year. But there is clearly a consensus building among some on the left that Trump might be the weaker — and therefore, more desirable — candidate.

Under that scenario, it is not the least bit surprising to see media headlines that wonder out loud whether the DeSantis brand “will implode,” whether DeSantis is simply a “paper tiger,” whether he’s “ready for prime time,” or whether he should bail on his potential challenge to Trump now — and wait until 2028.

If I were Ron DeSantis, on his campaign team, or one of his financial backers, I might be inclined to see the teaming of those who would disparage or dismiss the Florida governor as a positive sign — especially since Trump’s attacks against DeSantis might backfire with moderate Republican and Democratic voters who can’t stand the former president, and the crocodile tears being shed by the liberal media over the “failing” DeSantis brand might bolster the image of the Florida governor with conservatives and people of faith.  

As DeSantis contemplates his political future, he should keep in mind that if he is taking massive flak from both camps, he is most likely directly over the target. 

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.

Tags liberal media Republican Party Ron DeSantis Trump 2024

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