Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is set to finally launch his presidential campaign today – on Twitter of all places.
The announcement comes after months of speculation and months of tumult. DeSantis was at one point the statistical frontrunner among prospective GOP candidates. But a series of missteps have left DeSantis trailing well behind former President Donald Trump.
Ron DeSantis is not out of the race, but he has plenty of ground to make up. Let’s take a look at the missteps that put DeSantis on his heels.
Ron DeSantis on Ukraine
Appearing on Tucker Carlson’s Fox show (back when that was still a thing), DeSantis said some things about the ongoing Russo-Ukraine War that did not gel with the mainstream Republican (or Democratic) Party.
Whereas the Republican Party, generally, believes President Biden is not doing enough to assist Ukraine in their efforts to thwart Russia’s illegal invasion, DeSantis said he believed Biden was doing too much.
“While the US has many vital national interests – securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness with our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural, and military power of the Chinese Communist Party – becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis is correct here – defending Ukraine is not a vital U.S. interest – but the comment was not well received because intervention is the default in U.S. politics and policy and to suggest otherwise is perceived as pure blasphemy.
DeSantis on Disney
Rpm DeSantis messed up on this one.
When Disney criticized DeSantis’ signing of the so-called Don’t Say Gay bill into law, DeSantis responded with petulance and vindictiveness, offering to build a prison next to Disney’s theme park. The feud has only continued to escalate, and now Disney, which happens to be an economic and optical powerhouse for the state of Florida, has decided to cancel a $2 billion dollar project that was expected to create 2,000 jobs for the state DeSantis runs. Naturally, the feud has been disastrous for DeSantis, who has opened himself up to right-wing criticism as being anti-business. Not a good look in the business-over-all-else GOP.
DeSantis on Abortion
DeSantis signed a six-week abortion ban. And while conventional wisdom held that conservatives were anti-abortion, the contemporary reality, in light of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling, shows that conservative feelings on abortion are much more complicated. Most Americans do not support a six-week abortion ban, and Republicans are slowly waking up to the understanding that draconian abortion rules are politically hazardous.
Florida’s new six-week abortion ban complicates the Team DeSantis narrative that DeSantis is more electable than Trump.
DeSantis Stumbles Are Opening Doors for Others
DeSantis’ missteps have allowed opponents to gain ground. Several candidates, sensing a window to challenge the beleaguered Trump as the previously favored challenger DeSantis has stumbled, have entered the race. The crowding of the field further hurts DeSantis’ chances, while bolstering Trump, who is counting on the GOP failing to congeal behind a single Trump alternative. That’s what happened in 2016, when an insurgent Trump campaign snagged victory from a GOP field that despised Trump but could not select a single alternative.
Instead, the anti-Trump crowd was fractured among several candidates, including Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich. If Ron DeSantis can’t get things moving in the right direction again, he runs the risk of losing anti-Trump voters to second-tier candidates like Nikki Haley and Mike Pence.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.