Why Ron DeSantis May Well Win the Nomination

The DeSantis campaign got off to a bumpy start on Wednesday, as the livestream in which the governor announced his candidacy began late and was marred by glitches. Riotous derision was promptly forthcoming, with the hashtag “Desaster” trending on Twitter. Representatively, the Associated Press flatly called the event a “bungled announcement.” Despite all that, I rate the Tallahassee tornado’s chances of clinching the Republican nomination higher now than I would have before the event. Let me explain.

In an article published on May 12, perspicacious election watcher Matthew Continetti detailed what he called “The Very Invisible Republican Primary.” Donald Trump, the argument went, was polling so far above his competitors because they were neglecting to attack him properly. Pence, Haley, Ramaswamy, and the rest of them were pulling their punches, reluctant to level any remotely biting criticism at the forty-fifth president. Continetti extended his argument to DeSantis, contending that the conservative crusader’s démarche of “avoiding a one-on-one clash with the frontrunner” was crippling his chances: “His book rollout, international trade mission, and successful legislative session have not reversed his decline in the polls.”

Consequently, a major concern for the Floridian firebrand’s backers was that his rhetoric concerning Trump was too mellow. With the official commencement of DeSantis’s bid, that has changed overnight: the 44-year-old has come out swinging. In an interview with Ben Shapiro of the Daily Wire, he delivered a veritable barrage of shots at the former commander-in-chief. In a single answer to one of Shapiro’s questions, the presidential hopeful laid into his rival for

  • supporting an “amnesty bill” for “two million illegal aliens,”
  • supporting an “omnibus bill” which “racked up a huge amount of debt for this country,”
  • “sign[ing] every omnibus that was put on his desk,”
  • “turning the reins over to Dr. Fauci,” and
  • bestowing on the doctor “a presidential commendation on Trump’s last day in office.”

The former congressman also lambasted Trump for backing the First Step Act and fired off other grievances, but all his criticisms of his opponent are too many to list here.

Indeed, one gets the palpable impression that the other Republican candidates already feel threatened by DeSantis’s honing of his profile and setting himself apart from Trump. Soon after the governor entered the race, according to Reuters, Nikki Haley “issued a campaign ad that took a swipe at both rivals, mocking DeSantis as a ‘pit bull defender’ of the former president.” Against the backdrop of what we have discussed above, this looks like a feeble attempt to turn back time and pretend DeSantis is still in Trump’s shadow.

Moreover, the format chosen for the announcement suggests DeSantis will not be leaving his flair for eye-catching displays behind as he revs up his campaign efforts. Whether it was flying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard or playing a video of material from children’s books which turned out to be too graphic for some media companies to broadcast (“one of the best 4-D chess moves you’ll ever see,” according to one journalist), the southeastern stalwart has an obvious knack for targeted displays that make him look absolutely fantastic. To be sure, by choosing to kick his campaign off on Twitter Spaces, he gambled and lost, but the far more interesting aspect to this story is that it suggests he will not be playing it safe in his fight for the nomination and will continue to try to stand out through flashy gestures – which, on the whole, tend to work for him.

Lastly, I was impressed by DeSantis’s media appearances directly following his announcement. No matter what anyone says, the Floridian is a great communicator, and these interviews can attest to that quality. On May 26, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro uploaded a short video with his first thoughts on DeSantis’s campaign launch. Despite the journalist’s clear sympathy for the Florida governor, the general tenor of the comments was respectful to Desantis, but still in favor of Trump. This consensus is less stark now, but I remember reading the comments shortly after the video was uploaded, and every one of them seemed to be saying the same thing, with much spamming of “Trump 2024.” Then, not a day later, Shapiro posted an interview with DeSantis to the same YouTube channel. On this video, the comments are generally in support of giving the nomination to DeSantis. Again, this slant was even more pronounced in the early hours after the video was uploaded.

An analogous picture emerges when one looks at the Fox News YouTube channel. If one only read the comments under the video reporting DeSantis’s candidacy, one might think he stood no chance at all of winning. Many of them are downright hostile to the governor and show a clear preference for Trump. On the other hand, the comments on a clip of the younger candidate’s interview with Trey Gowdy tell a radically different story, leaning heavily in his favor. As I write this, the two highest-rated comments are “De Santis for President in 2024!!” and “Finally, a real leader!” Others are similar in tone. The picture was much the same with the full conversation, where the top comment was “Good Lord, such an articulate presidential candidate. It’s been a long time since this was on the table.”

DeSantis’s campaign has only just begun. If his manner of presenting his positions and candidacy is consistently this persuasive, we can expect to see him climb in the polls over the coming months. As recently as mid-January, betters actually rated the Floridian as likelier to win the nomination than Trump.  Since then, as Trump has relentlessly attacked his rival and DeSantis has largely avoided hitting back, that lead has increasingly reversed itself. Now, I expect the erstwhile favorite to start making up lost ground, and doing it fast.

Of course, none of this is scientific, but there is no scientific way to foretell, at this point, how the race for the nomination will unfold in the future. Again, the DeSantis campaign is still in its infancy. I may be dead wrong. Yet, for the reasons above, I believe a President DeSantis is in the cards for 2025.

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