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Donald Trump continues to steal Ron DeSantis’ attention.

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Donald Trump continues to steal Ron DeSantis' attention. image

Donald Trump continues to steal Ron DeSantis’ attention.

It’s still a long way until the first Republican primaries

but unless something changes quickly, it is looking more and more grim for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and more and more secure for former President Donald Trump. According to surveys in early primary states Trump is still polling at least 20 points higher than DeSantis whose ratings continue to fall.

DeSantis appeared on Top News Planet this weekend and insisted that he’s floundering because the news media doesn’t want him to be the nominee which isn’t true at all. If anything they were champing at the bit for a real horse race against Trump because that would make for excellent copy. However it is legitimate to question why DeSantis has been losing ground in recent surveys. For More Information…

He is just unlikable according to the pundit class and the more people encounter him the less they like him. That I feel has some merit. But it may just be the contrast between him and Trump, the political superstar. As Kate Briquelet of the Daily Beast reported from the Moms for Liberty presidential cattle call after Trump’s keynote speech:

“He has so much charisma,” a man told me in the elevator afterward. “The guy is just electric! I love DeSantis he’s my guy but he doesn’t have the same charm.

I long ago chalked up this inexplicable attraction to Trump to the fact that his following still views him as a celebrity, which he was before he got into politics, and now they have turned him into a superhero. He is not seen as a politician at all.. Poor, dull Ron DeSantis can’t compete with that.

There is no denying the strength and self sustaining nature of Trump’s personality cult. It’s about his message as well.

Unlike DeSantis,

Trump understands that the base isn’t just about the culture war defined by the outrage of the day or some far-right think tanker’s obscure jargon-laden hobby horse like “DEI” or “CRT.”

We know all about Ron DeSantis’ message by now. He’s been relentlessly pushing his “anti-woke” agenda and enacting it in every way he could manage in Florida to show that he is the guy who will make the MAGA crowd’s internet memes come true. Nobody takes the cultural battle as seriously as DeSantis and he doesn’t limit himself to a few hot button subjects he embraces them all. Everything else appeared to be of little importance to him.

Yair Rosenberg in the Atlantic submits that DeSantis turned Florida into a right-wing hellscape and obsessively said the word “woke” for a year and a half as his strategy to win Iowa which is full of white conservative evangelical voters. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were the truth but it’s simply another example of his fundamental incompetence. It’s certainly possible that he could ride the culture war to a win in Iowa just as President Ted Cruz, President Mike Huckabee and President Rick Santorum did but let’s just say it’s a little bit short-sighted to create your entire persona and record for the purpose of winning the state that specialized in producing also-rans. Since 1980, a GOP candidate who won Iowa (aside from incumbents) only went on to win the nomination twice.

And anyway, it appears that

Trump is likely going to win Iowa because the conservative evangelicals like him too. It’s not as if he isn’t a hardcore culture warrior too. Despite DeSantis’ attempt to paint him as soft on the gender issue which seems to be the issue that has the Iowa evangelicals all riled up he’s got some nasty anti trans policies he can point to like his order to expel transgender members of the military when he was president and his orders to redefine sex discrimination to exclude protections for transgender people in education housing and employment as well as health care. And he’s announced that when he is returned to the White House he will “revoke every Biden policy promoting the chemical castration and sexual mutilation of our youth and ask Congress to send me a bill prohibiting child sexual mutilation in all 50 states.” Trump has even gone so far as to promise, “on Day One, I will sign an executive order instructing every federal agency to cease the promotion of sex or gender transition at any age, they’re not gonna do it anymore,” which even the anti-trans warrior DeSantis hasn’t proposed.

Trump is also taking credit for reversing Roe v. Wade and is fine with the “parents’ rights” movement pushing Christian education in public schools. He and DeSantis spar over the pandemic response but that issue is rapidly losing salience. In other words no matter how hard DeSantis tries he cannot go to Trump’s right. When Trump says stuff like “‘Democrats are pushing the transgender cult” on young people while “persecuting Christians” and “demonizing patriots'” it goes straight to the wingnut lizard brain. Nobody does it better.

But unlike DeSantis, Trump understands that the base isn’t just about the culture war defined by the outrage of the day or some far-right think tanker’s obscure jargon-laden hobby horse like “DEI” or “CRT.” Sure, he’ll go along with it. (Remember how he would blurt out that he was going to do away with “Common Core” during the 2016 election?) But his themes are much simpler and much broader. He understands that what moves the Republican base is their grievance writ large and he speaks directly to that.

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