He did nothing to dissuade Americans that he was a strong, competent, and decisive leader.
But as he sat straight, his hands barely moving from his lap once, it was striking how little excitement he projected.
“Low energy Ron” probably wouldn’t work this time should Donald Trump decide to trot it out again as he did in 2016 against Jeb Bush—also a one-time Florida governor.
But lack of energy and charisma could become a problem.
Some polls even show DeSantis beating Trump.
Although the most recent Fox News poll shows Trump with a decisive lead.
Polls change, and it’s very early.
And Trump has an unparalleled capacity for self-sabotage.
The real question is whether DeSantis is truly the guy to challenge Trump.
Maybe it’s DeSantis. But if he’s a better choice than say, former Vice President Mike Pence, you can’t argue that Pence just lacks the DeSantis charisma. Both are fairly Al Gore-ish or Mitt Romney-ish on that front.
Ron DeSantis was talked up early and has managed to maintain the status as most likely to beat Trump in a primary. As things stand now, it’s tough to see that changing. But we don’t know all of the candidates and the first debate hasn’t occurred.
There are plenty of examples of candidates who peaked too early.
After President Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012, we had heaping helpings of media coverage about 2016 Republican frontrunner Marco Rubio, before we were told that Chris Christie was leading the GOP pack, and eventually informed it was a near guarantee that Jeb Bush (him again) would clear the Republican field–but Scott Walker might be his toughest opponent.
Not only did Trump win the nomination, but Rubio came in a distant third place and lost his home state, while Christie, Bush and Walker didn’t make respectable showings at all.
Or, in 2011, remember how so many Republicans seemed certain that Texas tough Rick Perry would take the GOP primaries by storm?
And Rudy Giuliani was the frontrunner for the 2008 Republican nomination before voting started.
It’s not just Republicans. For months, it seemed a certainty that Howard Dean would win the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.
So, history tells us that Ron DeSantis could definitely fizzle out despite all the momentum he has now.
That said, DeSantis has traits these other guys did not.
One, after Joe Biden was elected, DeSantis was almost immediately mentioned in 2021 as a likely Republican standard-bearer if Trump isn’t the nominee again. As noted above, after Obama won another term, we had at least three incarnations of a 2016 Republican front runner who peaked too early.
By contrast, DeSantis kept getting stronger and won a big victory in Florida in a year that Trump was blamed for dragging down Republicans in other states.
Much like the aforementioned Wisconsin Gov. Walker, DeSantis checks off a lot of conservative movement boxes for taking on big fights and was elected decisively in a battleground state. Walker couldn’t take the withering spotlight of a presidential race, failed to impress, and was among the first to drop out of the 2016 race before a single vote was cast.
But unlike Walker, Ron DeSantis has faced down grueling national media vetting for his entire term as governor. He has taken on and won big fights, certainly proved he can stand up to scrutiny and is a proven vote-getter with cross partisan appeal.
So, there is good reason to think he can weather the storm and prevail without the charisma and relatability of a Ronald Reagan or even a Bill Clinton.
No candidate is perfect, but DeSantis is impressive.
The point is that too many commentators on the right that hope to avoid another Trump nomination are insisting anyone not in the Trump base immediately coalesce around DeSantis.
Anti-Trump Republicans should be cautious about putting all their eggs in one basket.
Barbara Joanna Lucas is a writer and researcher in Northern Virginia. She has been a healthcare professional, political blogger, is a proud dog mom, and news junkie. Follow her on Twitter @BasiaJL.