Earlier this week, former President Donald Trump took aim at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in an interview, first declaring that his endorsement in 2018 was responsible for getting DeSantis elected governor of Florida, and then stating that “so you know, now I hear he might want to run against me. So we’ll handle that the way I handle things.”
Donald Trump Has a Plan to Destroy Ron DeSantis
A few days later, a report appeared in Rolling Stone, laying out what exactly Trump’s strategy will be if he ends up running against the Florida governor. “This is where…Trump kicks him in the ****,” one Trump adviser told the magazine of the “scorched-earth campaign” that Trump is planning against his onetime ally.
Trump plans to go after DeSantis on several areas, per Rolling Stone: “Both personal issues — recurring concerns about his “likeability” and supposed charisma deficit — and on policy matters such as DeSantis’ hawkish foreign policy, trade stances, COVID-19 posturing, closeness to the party’s “establishment,” and the past votes to slash the social safety net.”
The former president is also seeking to brand DeSantis as an establishment figure and to tie him to Senate Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, and other figures of the pre-Trump GOP, with a focus on DeSantis’ time in Congress prior to his governorship.
He also plans to link DeSantis to Republican efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare, which was a strategy that appears to have worked for Democrats in the midterm elections last year.
Essentially, Trump seeks to accuse DeSantis of representing the Republican Party as it was before Trump came along, including his votes for the sorts of things — starting with deep entitlement cuts, free trade, and wars — that Trump was less associated with during his presidency.
“In a Republican primary, only Donald Trump could effectively go after Ron DeSantis for wanting to cut Social Security,” a source described as a Republican close to the 2024 Trump campaign told the magazine.
“Trump has a track record of saying the right things on this issue both when it comes to a general election and also Republican voters in a primary. DeSantis’ record in the House [on this topic] is very much of the Paul Ryan, privatize Social Security platform, which is just not where our voters are now.”
Will It Work?
Whether Trump, after nearly a decade as the de facto leader of the Republican Party, can credibly accuse someone else of being the “establishment” candidate is another question entirely.
Another issue likely to come up in the campaign is that DeSantis has been much more skeptical of vaccines and other efforts to combat COVID than Trump has, although how resonant such issues will be in a primary a year from now is unclear.
Trump has been asking advisers “what else do we have on [Ron]?” the Rolling Stone story said.
DeSantis has not yet announced that he is running for president, and has mostly said little in response to attacks, whether they’re from Trump’s team or from other potential 2024 candidates like Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota. It’s not clear yet what his strategy is for taking on Trump. But experts quoted in the Rolling Stone story speculated on what he might do.
“Strategically, I would say DeSantis is probably well inoculated on some of these attacks from Trump,” David Kochel, the chief strategist for 2016 Trump opponent Jeb Bush, told the magazine. “On the pandemic, DeSantis can say,‘You kept Dr. Fauci around, I would have fired him; you locked us down, I opened Florida back up… Trump is never at his best when he’s talking about policy; he’s at his best when he’s going after people about culture wars, which DeSantis has kind of perfect pitch on.”
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According to the latest Morning Consult poll of the GOP primary, Trump leads a crowded poll with 48 percent, followed by DeSantis with 31 percent; no other candidate polls more than 10 percent.
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.
January 20, 2023 at 10:45 am
Who takes Rolling Stone seriously on anything related to US politics let alone Republicans? They can’t be trusted with their anti-American venom and certainly not someone in President Trump’s circle.
This website is headed to the toilet. Stick to some good analysts on foreign affairs.