No, There Was Nothing DeSantis Could Have Done To Beat Trump
Now that Ron DeSantis is no longer a presidential candidate but merely a governor who endorsed Donald Trump, the media are about to misdiagnose his failed bid as a case of bad campaign strategy. Some of the concerns will be real, but to focus on strategy is to miss the forest for the trees. Months of polling trends tell an unmistakable story, and it’s more about Trump than DeSantis.
A smart consultant who happened to work on one of the failed presidential primary campaigns floated an obvious-sounding theory past me last week. People, he said, don’t vote for president like they vote for governor. That is to say, they vote for governors more pragmatically; they vote for presidents more inspirationally.
For this reason and many more, it’s likely Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis never stood a chance against Donald Trump. Why didn’t DeSantis’ recent electoral romp translate into the primary? I suspect there’s something to the aforementioned theory.
DeSantis is a policy guy. It’s the center of his appeal in Florida. He’s engineered an innovative legislative campaign against cultural radicalism and elite authoritarianism. He’s put money where his mouth is. But DeSantis lacks the charisma of his major opponent, and policy comes second in nomination battles, especially one in which the leading candidate is being battered with unprecedented lawfare.
To the extent this lawfare constituted a policy question, of course, DeSantis could have been better by refusing to suggest the indictments reflect negatively on Trump’s character or electability. (For the record, I happen to think some of it does but, like many voters, understand plenty of politicians with grave character defects are ignored or rewarded for their misconduct.) The Republican primary electorate is obviously different than the general electorate. They know Trump
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