Ron DeSantis stands no chance against a political barbarian like Donald Trump
For all DeSantis' right-wing celebrity, there's this reality: Trump is going to eat the governor's lunch, stuff the bag in his mouth and leave him pantsed and bawling on the political playground.
There is one thing, and one thing only, I like about former President Donald Trump: He’s going to make Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political life absolutely miserable.
Trump is already a GOP presidential candidate, and all signs point to DeSantis, the Sunshine State’s pugilistic, anti-woke warrior toad, soon becoming the former president’s main competition in the race.
That’s where things get funny. DeSantis has leveraged a meanness borne of right-wing buzzwords to make a national name for himself, at least in Republican circles. His words drip with disdain as he “owns the libs” and panders to those who view things like “diversity” and “inclusion” as profane concepts.
'Anti-Woke Warrior'? Not so much:Tough-guy Ron DeSantis defeats Woke Disney! Except ... he didn’t. At all.
But for all his bluster and right-wing celebrity, for all the boxes he checks on the MAGA-purity checklist, there’s this reality: Trump is going to eat DeSantis’ lunch, stuff the lunch bag in his mouth and leave him pantsed and bawling on the political playground.
Polls show Trump's continued grip on the Republican Party
A wave of recent polls showed that Trump – the oafish man who has brought the GOP a string of electoral losses – saw his lead over DeSantis surge in February. An Emerson College poll shows Trump with a massive 30-point lead over DeSantis, with support for the Florida governor dropping 4 percentage points from January’s numbers.
A new Yahoo News/YouGov poll pitting Trump in a head-to-head primary against DeSantis gives Trump an 8-point lead over the Florida governor, which is a 12-point swing from an early February poll by the same group that showed DeSantis up 4 percentage points over Trump.
In a recent poll from Echelon Insights, a GOP polling firm, Trump is trouncing DeSantis by 15 points after only leading by 2 points in January. And in a new Fox News poll, Republican primary voters favored Trump over DeSantis 43% to 28%.
DeSantis can make all the right moves, but Trump just needs a mean nickname or two to win
This Trump-heavy swing happened while DeSantis was making what are theoretically all the right moves to win over the GOP base. He has been attacking Disney, making life difficult for Florida teachers, combatting diversity in state colleges and generally doing what one does to court voters who survive on a steady diet of Fox News and conspiratorial Facebook memes.
What has Trump been doing? LOL! He has largely been sitting around Mar-a-Lago sending unhinged missives on Truth Social, his sad social media site, and tinkering with mean nicknames for DeSantis, including, but not limited to, “Meatball Ron.”
'Woke' war speaks volumes:Ron DeSantis and the GOP fight 'woke' because hating a word is easier than hating people
This is the conundrum for DeSantis and anyone else toying with a run at the GOP presidential nomination. You can do all the things you think a presidential candidate should do, and none of it will matter, because at the end of the day, you have to face off with the political equivalent of a rabid badger on bath salts. There is no “too low” in Trump’s vocabulary, and there is no “too far” in the lengths he’ll go to degrade, dehumanize and destroy an opponent.
'RINO Ron DeSATANis!!'
DeSantis just released a book. He recently traveled to give tough-on-crime speeches to police unions in New York and Chicago. This week he had an 850-word op-ed in the conservative Wall Street Journal that included seven uses of the word “woke,” two uses of the word “militant,” one “leftist,” one “cultural Marxism” and one “fringe left.”
But all Trump has to do is step away from the waffle bar at his golf resort for 10 seconds and tweet something like “RINO Ron DeSATANis” to make his poll numbers shoot up 5 points.
Such is the monster the GOP created. Some wealthy donors and non-MAGA conservatives still hope against hope that Trump’s base of voters will wake up and abandon their toxic idol.
That’s not going to happen. Trump is being investigated six different ways to Sunday, he continues to spout dangerous election conspiracy theories and his every utterance on Truth Social should disqualify him from ever holding a position of power. But his supporters only consume media that holds Trump out as the greatest president in American history, so his flaws, which are legion, are wholly irrelevant.
Voters clearly told GOP to change their ways:So far Republicans have said, 'Nope.'
Can I pay someone in this Florida diner to support Ron DeSantis, please?
Fox News host Brian Kilmeade recently visited a diner in Florida and walked around asking customers who they want to be the GOP presidential candidate, and person after person after person said, “Donald Trump.” One woman wearing a DeSantis T-shirt said she favors the governor but is “either/or” between him and Trump. And that’s in DeSantis’ home state!
Trump could get indicted, but would it matter?
Plenty can happen between now and the primaries, of course. Trump could get indicted, though I don’t know if even that would stop him. In the upside-down world of the GOP, it might help.
But the idea that Trump’s followers will abandon him en masse? Anyone paying attention knows that’s not happening.
Trump is a political barbarian. He’ll either win his party’s nomination or he’ll tear down everything around him in the process. And either way, he’s going to pound DeSantis’ political dreams to dust.
And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like that.
Follow USA TODAY columnist Rex Huppke on Twitter @RexHuppke and Facebook facebook.com/RexIsAJerk.
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