Donald Trump’s attacks on critics and political opponents often don’t make sense. The latest bromide against Gov. Ron DeSantis’ leadership in Florida is a case in point. Trump said that Florida is in bad shape, even though he made a conscious decision in 2019 to leave New York and live in the Sunshine State permanently.
Donald Trump Lives In a State He Thinks Is Failing
Trump recently castigated DeSantis for leading a locale with a great many problems. “In Education, Florida ranks among the worst in the Country and on crime statistics, Florida ranked Third Worst in Murder, Third Worst in Rape, and Third Worst in Aggravated Assault,” Trump said. “For 2022, Jacksonville was ranked as one of the Top 25 Major Crime Cities in the Country, with Tampa and Orlando not doing much better…”
DeSantis was speaking in Iowa to a crowd that picked up on the hypocrisy of Trump’s statement about Florida. The governor said the following after his speech: “He used to say how great Florida was,” DeSantis told a journalist. “Hell, his whole family moved to Florida under my governorship. Are you kidding me?”
DeSantis said he is going to start responding to Trump’s broadsides. He wants to focus on his policy accomplishments without the drama and sideshow antics that the former president often displays. DeSantis believes that Donald Trump is now attacking him by moving left.
“At the end of the day, leadership is not about entertainment, it’s not about building a brand, it’s not about virtue signaling. It is about results,” DeSantis told the Iowa crowd outside of Des Moines in his first speech since declaring his candidacy for president.
The governor believes he has a conservative record to run on. He encouraged pro-life policies by signing them into law. He cut taxes and fought wokeness from universities and corporations.
Can DeSantis Be the Comeback Kid?
Despite his accomplishments, DeSantis is well behind Trump in polls. The governor did not decide to run until May, and this delay allowed the former president to needle DeSantis with repeated attacks. The governor often turned the other cheek, but as his campaign matures, he is likely to go on the offensive.
DeSantis needs to create daylight between himself and Trump. One way is to point out Trump’s hypocrisy and bombastic tendencies to voters looking for a change from the chaotic nature of Trump’s governance. DeSantis may be surprised about what Trump comes up with on any given day. He will have to get used to shielding himself against incessant barbs from the former president, while still showing he is a politician who can turn conservative rhetoric into law — something that Trump was not always able to do in Washington, DC.
DeSantis also needs to excel at one-on-one exchanges with voters in intimate settings in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. One early knock on DeSantis is that he struggles making personal connections with ordinary voters — a weakness he must shake if he is to succeed in early states.
As the Florida governor introduces himself, Trump can attack DeSantis from his perch in Mar-a-Lago and then hold well-attended rallies where he can make fun of DeSantis, even though these personal attacks do not always make sense. Trump wants to show that the governor was not that successful leading Florida. Trump also has better lists of contacts that will help him reach more voters than DeSantis can at this point.
DeSantis hopes that the delay in his campaign start has not created a hole that he cannot dig out of. Trump’s nickname for the governor, “Ron DeSanctimonious,” has stuck. And it’s not like DeSantis to give his own moniker to Trump.
Thus, DeSantis is in a tough position. He has to introduce himself to voters and extol the virtues of Florida, meet as many voters as possible, and improve his polling numbers. Trump, with a big lead, only has to sling mud at the governor. That is why DeSantis must have a thick skin and a willingness to parry the Trump jabs and react with hard-hitting punches. We will see if he can pull that off before voting starts in January.
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.
From 19FortyFive: Are We Watching the End of Donald Trump?
From 19FortyFive: Liz Cheney: Could She Join the Democratic Party?
From 19FortyFive: Liz Cheney: The Next President of the United States?