In our politically polarized nation, commonsense observations about “the other side” are ignored or forcefully rejected via poisonous rhetoric. One such observation is that much of the mainstream media have morphed into a quasi-official propaganda arm for the Democratic Party. Cue the denials … except, when Donald TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE was in the White House a number of journalists cast aside their objectivity to proclaim they were part of the #Resistance.
For those willing to accept the premise, it’s easy to ascertain which potential Republican candidate the Democratic Party-supporting mainstream media fears most for the 2024 election. Based on the negative pounding he has been taking in the press, the answer is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisDeSantis's new surgeon general opposes vaccine mandates People close to Trump say he 'wants back' in national spotlight: report Poll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field MORE. It appears that many in the media view DeSantis as an elected official whose policies are similar to Trump’s, without the former president’s ego and baggage.
And guess what? For tens of millions of Americans who did vote for Trump in 2020, such a “negative” designation by some media would be validation for a DeSantis campaign and for assigning him their vote in 2024. Trump’s immature insults and dangerous rhetoric aside, many of his policies were clear winners with millions of American voters, including many in minority communities. These voters might put their hope in DeSantis to expand upon Trump’s winning policies.
With regard to the Trump-DeSantis comparison, another fairly accepted truth is that human nature dictates that people generally don’t like to be proven wrong or irrelevant, and often will strike back. It can be argued that, in 2015 and 2016, Trump proved many media and political pundits embarrassingly wrong and irrelevant.
For the past year, much of that same media and punditry class proclaimed New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoZeldin says he's in remission after treatment for leukemia Letitia James holding private talks on running for New York governor: report Governors brace for 2022 after year in pandemic spotlight MORE the gold standard for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, while continually ridiculing DeSantis and his policies to combat the virus in Florida. But a not-funny thing happened on the way to the canonization of Cuomo. First, the tragedy of coronavirus deaths in New York nursing homes, and now the difficult-to-ignore allegations of sexual harassment leveled against Cuomo.
Meanwhile, in Florida, millions of residents are convinced that DeSantis not only dealt with the virus in the most pragmatic way possible but saved their livelihoods in the process. To that point, during an interview with Mark LevinMark Reed LevinFormer California senator prods Feinstein to consider retirement Elder pledges to replace Feinstein with Republican if he wins California recall election Sunday shows preview: Feds slam social media over COVID-19 misinformation MORE on Fox News, DeSantis explained:
“What we did … was really three things: One is to protect those who are the most vulnerable to the disease … rather than trying to suppress society as a whole. Second, … we want to make sure that our hospital system had what they needed in terms of PPE, medication, testing — and we were able to do that. But then, third … we wanted society to function. You can’t burn down the village in order to save it. … So if you look now, Florida is open for business. We have everything … that has been open for months. And we have kids in school, in person. Parents have the option to opt for virtual learning if they want, but they have the in-person option, which is very, very important.”
So it appears that criticizing DeSantis for his coronavirus policies may be a losing proposition. Just on the last point alone, regarding the importance of schools being open and in-person teaching, tens of millions of Americans agree with him. More than that, it can be surmised that millions of parents in every state may be looking at DeSantis as one who rightfully and courageously stood his ground, even as the liberal-leaning media were beautifying Andrew Cuomo … until they weren’t.
Two more commonsense observations might elicit vigorous pushback by partisans on opposite sides of the political divide. First, considering President BidenJoe BidenUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks GOP Rep. Cawthorn likens vaccine mandates to 'modern-day segregation' MORE’s age and seemingly frail health, there is a chance that Vice President Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisSenate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam House passes bill to compensate 'Havana syndrome' victims Harris 'deeply troubled' by treatment of Haitian migrants MORE could assume the presidency before 2024. Second, Harris is a capable, intelligent and pragmatic politician. I’d be shocked if she and her political team weren’t already assessing DeSantis as the potential Republican frontrunner for 2024. (The rest of the Republican field likely will be weak.)
With Trump hopefully out of the running in 2024, DeSantis appeared to be the clear favorite at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) with 43 percent of the straw vote. His next closest competitor was South Dakota Gov. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemDozens of Republican governors call for meeting with Biden on border surge Juan Williams: Shame on the anti-mandate Republicans White House debates vaccines for air travel MORE with 11 percent. Donald Trump Jr. garnered 8 percent, and former Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoWashPost fact-checker gives Pompeo four 'Pinocchios' for 'zombie' claim about Obama Iran deal Poll: Biden, Trump statistically tied in favorability Majority of voters disapprove of execution of Afghanistan withdrawal: poll MORE and Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSchumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks Bipartisan senators to hold hearing on 'toxic conservatorships' amid Britney Spears controversy GOP senators seek to block dishonorable discharges for unvaccinated troops MORE of Texas each got 7 percent.
Harris might recognize deep down that a number of Trump policies — which DeSantis could enhance — did move the country in a positive direction. More than that, she is aware that many Americans who voted for Biden in 2020 did so only as a protest against Trump. If Trump doesn’t run in 2024, what percentage of that protest vote would stay home?
Harris will be a formidable candidate when she does run. But to defeat a rising DeSantis, she will need to not only defend any failed Biden-Harris policies, but also convincingly articulate her own vision to move the nation forward. That’s something she was unable to do successfully during the 2020 Democratic primary season. With the power and prestige of the White House behind her, that dynamic will change.
When the race is on, it will be Harris v. DeSantis. You can bet on it.
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.