The Long, Thin Winding Road
So many things to choose from to write about today, but we’re going with "Meet Ron DeSantis!" Quite the way to introduce yourself to the national public.
Horrific as it was, that’s not the only reason to address his “Welcome to Me” moment, though it’s a good starting point. It was a thorough debacle. However, as awful as it was (and it was really awful), I don’t think it was anywhere near as problematic as it appears. After all, it’s a long race, DeSantis will have a mass of TV ads and a full schedule of events, and then there will be debates, so however dismal as his introduction was, it’s only a small part of his campaign. And there will plenty more hurdles and chances to screw up further. Certainly there will be highs, but Hurricane Trump has barely begun to head in his direction. Where the tech meltdown will have its biggest impact, I think, is if (or when) his campaign hits some road bumps, the news media (and Trump’s team) will likely bring out clips of the debacle as being indicative of whatever his current hiccups are.
Actually, I think this was a bigger screw-up for Elon Musk. It was only a terrible “introduction” for DeSantis, though Republicans already have a reasonable idea who he is. For Musk, though, this was his chance to showcase Twitter and perhaps reclaim some interest that’s he’s whittled away through his galling incompetence. Instead, it’s quadrupled down and was a laughingstock for the platform, made worse for pointing to the cutbacks Musk has made.
That said, DeSantis has much bigger problems than an incompetent "Hi, Folks, This is Me!" And biggest of all is that, as I wrote a couple weeks ago, I think DeSantis has only one chance to get the nomination. And it’s not if Trump gets indicted (again) on a national security breach with the documents in Mar-a-Lago. Which, you have to admit, is a pretty major deal to not be big enough to help DeSantis.
But consider: Trump already has not only been indicted in Manhattan, but he also was found guilty of sexual abuse and fined $5 million. And he’s still leading DeSantis by 31 points! So, what’s one more “witch hunt” indictment to his acolyte base? Even it’s over national security.
Indeed, Trump’s base is so maniacally loyal that I think it might take a couple more indictments (Mar-a-Lago and Georgia, perhaps) and maybe even a third -- as well as perhaps adding on a conviction. (Though it seems unlikely that any court case could advance far enough for there to be a conviction before November, 2024.)
Consider, too, as I noted previously: Trump doesn’t have to win 51% of the primary votes. He just has to win more than his opponents dividing up the “not Trump” vote in any state race. And Trump is starting with a solid 30% of the Republican base who seemingly would have to be pried from voting for him. And then add on just 10% from the remaining voters, which gives Trump 40% as a starting point. With all the other candidates in the race – and especially if Mike Pence decides to run – then Ron DeSantis will have a lot of support divided many ways, as he tries to top that 40% start for Trump.
Certainly, most of the other candidates will drop out. But as they do, Trump will have been picking up delegates. And most of them will be dropping out because of Trump’s attacks on them, which – as happened in 2016 – only made him seem stronger and tough.
So, it seems to me that Ron DeSantis has a very narrow, long, thin dirt path to tread to any chance of victory. And that path has nothing to do with how good he does or poorly Trump does. It has to do with what happens in court. And as much as DeSantis is likely counting on that, he’d better be able to count high, because from what we already see, it appears that it will take an earthquake of legal action to crush the earth from under Trump to deny him the GOP nomination.
And if that happens, if Trump doesn’t get the nomination, and let’s say Ron DeSantis does, it’s hard to imagine anyone rational thinking that Trump will go gently in that good night. Even if it’s because he’s facing prison (or even in prison). He will do all he can to bring down the Republican nominee, because it’s no him leading the party, and may even tell his acolytes not to vote because it’s all rigged and stolen from him.
This is a long way of saying I don’t know why DeSantis decided to run. He’s only 44 years old. Trump won’t be on the ballot in four years. He’d have had four more years to build up his fascist cred, and show his loyal support for Trump and become Trump’s favorite. But he chose to run. And in running, Trump will do everything he can to destroy DeSantis, who either will be destroyed – for this year and the future -- or he’ll win the Republican nomination, get his chance, and be destroyed by Trump, ruining his chance and future.
To be clear, I could be wrong about all this. And even if DeSantis doesn’t get the nomination, he could perhaps come back in four years.
That’s a couple of “could’s.” It would have been so much easier, and I think so much better, to have waited, and then have a far more open field in four year. Rather than get sucked into the Trumpian muck.
And his national introduction didn’t help.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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