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Don't Run, Ron
I thought Trump would savage DeSantis's career. Now I wonder if DeSantis will sink it himself before even formally announcing.
I wrote the below article in November of 2022. I sent it around to various outlets—The Federalist, The Epoch Times, The American Mind, etc.—but none of them wanted to run it. I lost steam and decided to mothball it, but as I watch the campaign season progress, I have often wished I had just self-published it last year.
I am publishing it now to provide my thoughts from last fall in light of Ron DeSantis’s unforced error yesterday when addressing the possibility Trump could be indicted. I will be writing more on this topic, but this is where I started back in November 2022:
Don’t Run, Ron
Ron DeSantis has been a phenomenal governor of Florida and has acted as an excellent example to other governors of how to lead successfully. But as he flirts with a challenge to Donald Trump in the 2024 primary, Ron DeSantis risks an Icarus moment that could prove catastrophic to his career.
Timing is always an element of political success. DeSantis has gotten his timing very right in his rise from a relatively unheard-of congressman from Florida to one of the most prominent leaders in national politics and a clear presidential contender. But just as the right move at the right time can make you, the wrong move at the wrong time can break you. Among conservatives who are justifiably excited about DeSantis’s bright future, there is an odd blindness to the reality that an ugly primary against Trump could grievously wound DeSantis, too—not just Trump.
Just last week, three days before the election, Trump fired a shot across DeSantis’s bow when he referred to DeSantis as Ron DeSanctimonious. Many Republicans were puzzled why the former President appeared to be attacking the movement’s second star. Popular MAGA pollster Richard Baris shared in a Twitter thread that the Uniparty Republicans—Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan, among others—were urging DeSantis behind the scenes to challenge Trump, while major donors were also pledging their support to a Trump challenge.
On the night of the midterms, as Florida returned astounding results for the GOP, Fox News and Leftist media like MSNBC immediately began promoting a DeSantis run. In the days that followed, media outlets in the U.S. and Europe went full steam ahead with gleeful headlines proclaiming Trump toppled and DeSantis the man to take on the mantle.
A slew of conservative Twitter influencers and tepid Trump voters from 2020 cheer this development—it is time for someone less controversial than Trump, we are told. Many of the Twitter influencers—recently merry revelers at Mar-a-Lago—are likely thinking about positions they hope to acquire in a DeSantis administration, while the tepid Trump voters are mistakenly equating their political judgment with that of “the base.”
Those urging DeSantis to primary Trump are missing a number of serious problems. The first seems relatively obvious: all the wrong people and entities are all too excited about a Ron DeSantis run. McCarthy and Ryan aren’t MAGA. They represent the other side of the battle line in this civil war for control of the GOP. Fox and MSNBC on board? National Review? It won’t take long for these unsavory associations to spook the MAGA base and get people asking, why are these people who loathe our America First movement promoting DeSantis over Trump?
Second, very few, if any, voices are raising the alarm concerning the damage a primary would do, not to Trump, but to DeSantis himself. DeSantis will not waltz away with the nomination, as many advocates of his candidacy seem to imagine. Too many people think they are “the base.” But most Twitter influencers are not “the base.” The conservative laptop class is not “the base.” If DeSantis takes the bait and there is a primary showdown between DeSantis and Trump, those who mistakenly believe their own ennui with Trump represents the majority of the MAGA movement are in for the same shock the Left experienced on November 9, 2016.
More alarming for the good of our movement as a whole, the primary will not leave the contenders unscathed. If Trump has to “earn it,” as some have contemptuously demanded, Trump could very well savage DeSantis. He could taint him badly enough in the eyes of a large enough part of the base that Ron DeSantis would never be the leading MAGA candidate again.
DeSantis is still quite young to run for president. He has been an exceptional leader. Florida and the entire country would benefit from his continued state leadership for another four years, and DeSantis would likely benefit from a little more time being tested by fire at the state level before he ascends to the presidency and leads the MAGA movement.
For his part, Donald Trump is the right candidate for the moment. He started the MAGA revolution; he accomplished that first extraordinary realignment; he expanded that realignment and won in 2020; he has proven that he has the bullish spirit to take on the Left in a uniquely pugnacious and arresting manner; and he has proven he can win.
Donald Trump has unfinished business and, frankly, dirty work that he owes this country and needs to complete in his second term. There are things he needs to ruthlessly accomplish that DeSantis (or any other candidate) might not want to tack on to his political legacy. When Trump retakes the White House, he needs to pardon the January 6th defendants. That will enrage the Left and even make a lot of people on the Right uncomfortable, but it must be done. Do you think DeSantis wants to kick off his first term as President doing that? I very much doubt it.
Trump needs to dismantle the FBI and radically clean house in the federal bureaucracy. This will be a hard task, but Trump has the personal motivation required to take it on. Would DeSantis bring the same fire? Maybe, but we don’t know.
Trump has proven he can stand up to China and stoke the economy. With China as our primary adversary and the dollar as the global reserve currency in serious decline, Trump already has the track record to prove he can manage these crises.
At the end of the day, no matter what Fox, MSNBC, or the Twitter influencers are assuring you, the real “base” has not moved on from Donald Trump. From a purely strategic standpoint, consider what that means for a contentious primary between MAGA’s top leaders and consider what it means for the candidates both today and in the future. Now is not the time to split the party or bruise one of our brightest stars.
A majority of the MAGA world doesn’t know anything about the background wheeling and dealing that has been ongoing. They don’t know much yet of the effort by Uniparty—and even Leftist influences—to draft DeSantis into the primary against Trump. Trump’s barbs at DeSantis might be baffling at first blush, but when it is explained that Trump is simply bringing the inside baseball out into the open, the reaction won’t necessarily be positive for DeSantis. DeSantis could be a great leader of our movement, but don’t swallow the narrative that he is the unstoppable young star who will effortlessly defeat Trump. A primary between these two men will leave our movement battered and scattered, and, make no mistake, one of the key casualties could very well be the bright future of Ron DeSantis.