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Ron DeSantis Is Turing the Tables on Donald Trump

The governor is young and full of fight. He wants to bring the “noise” against Trump to narrow the gap in the coming months. We will see if he can pull off that feat.

Governor Ron DeSantis. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Governor Ron DeSantis speaking with attendees at the 2022 Student Action Summit at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Florida.

After turning his cheek for months and absorbing an immense number of insults, Ron DeSantis is finally on the offensive against Donald Trump.

Sensing that he is under water in polls as Trump has dominated the Florida governor in head-to-head matchup surveys, DeSantis is ready to take the fight to the former president. DeSantis had a nightmarish start to his campaign on Twitter, but he raised $8.2 million in the first 24 hours of his campaign.

What is the Strategy for Ron DeSantis?

DeSantis is hitting Trump on immigration and charges that the former president is an irresponsible spender who can be blamed for running up the national debt. The governor is castigating Trump for botching the federal government Covid-19 response that “destroyed millions of people’s lives.” DeSantis also wants to trim the wings of the FBI, an agency he thinks has accumulated too much power and is biased against conservatives.

DeSantis is trying to square the circle against Trump. During the mercurial president’s tenure from 2016 to 2020, DeSantis had to toe the line as a congressman for two years and appear as a MAGA governor who catapulted to office arguably because of Trump’s early endorsement. So the apprentice is taking on his master.

Trump Aims His Best Insults Toward DeSantis

Trump has now painted the Florida governor as being disloyal and not appreciative of Trump’s support. Trump also gave DeSantis a trademark Trumpian nickname – “DeSanctimonious.” This moniker stuck. It is meant to portray DeSantis as a purveyor of brittle self-righteous indignation that makes him less likely to garner support of people outside of Florida. Trump also enjoyed the spread of the Twitter hashtag “#DeSaster” after the clumsy social media rollout of the DeSantis campaign announcement that was fodder for criticism and jokes from Republicans and Democrats.

DeSantis Turns the Tables

One distinction Ron DeSantis can use against Trump is that the governor is adept at turning grievance into law and public policy. While Trump can talk a big game, he doesn’t always deliver legislative results that create conservative political change. DeSantis had a friendly legislature that rubber-stamped many of his right-wing inclinations into law. The governor thinks he can do this as president and make the United States into a Florida-like conservative paradise.

Trump believes DeSantis is not ready for the presidency. Trump wrote on Truth Social: “DeSanctimonious and his poll numbers are dropping like a rock. I would almost be inclined to say these are record falls. The question is Rob just young and inexperienced and naive or more troubling, is he a fool who has no idea what the hell he’s doing? We already have one of those in office, we don’t need another one. We need MAGA.”

DeSantis: Conservative Policy Wonk

But Ron DeSantis can argue that he delivered results. He put a conservative stamp on many government agencies in Florida and fought against the wokesters. For example, he has banned gender affirming care for children and fought Disney because of the corporation’s disagreement with his policies.

DeSantis has excellent right-wing instincts that create conservative solutions to leftwing big government problems. That is his strong suit. And he obviously can raise money online, but DeSantis has yet to show he can turn this largesse into a strong ground game in the early primary states. Trump already has huge fund-raising lists plus tons of contact information for texts and emails.

The other knock against DeSantis is his ability to interact successfully in one-on-one situations in small venues. Can he smile, shake hands, joke, laugh, and take selfies to show that he has a human touch? The governor often comes across as awkward. He doesn’t have a natural glad-handing personality. These qualities are important in Iowa and New Hampshire as voters there prefer to meet candidates several times in intimate settings. DeSantis also does not have the rock star-like charisma that can fill large venues with adoring fans in rallies like Trump can.

Trump is running a more professional campaign than he did in 2016. He is no longer an outsider. He has more people who despise him. Plus, he has legal problems and has already been indicted. It is not clear if DeSantis will attack Trump for being unethical and in legal hot water.

Overall, it will be an interesting race between the two (if we remove all the other candidates.) Trump is the clear frontrunner, but DeSantis has his fans who want to turn the page from Trump’s grievance politics.

The governor is young and full of fight. He wants to bring the “noise” against Trump to narrow the gap in the coming months. We will see if he can pull off that feat.

Author Expertise and Experience

Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.