Friday, September 30, 2022


Oliver Willis lives in Florida, and his online ad diet has been missing an essential nutrient:

A few days ago, Time's Molly Ball wrote about the listless Democratic campaign against Ron DeSantis:
While DeSantis dominates the news, his reelection this year has been all but taken for granted, and [Charlie] Crist, a former Republican governor and two-time statewide loser, has been all but ignored. To most political observers in both parties, the race is barely a speedbump as DeSantis steamrolls to national prominence. Amid the daily drumbeat of speculation about DeSantis vs. former President Donald Trump, his constituent and frenemy, DeSantis vs. Crist merits barely a mention.

Yet DeSantis, 44, is hardly battle-tested. Four years ago, he was a little-known Republican congressman who got elected governor in a historic squeaker, defeating the since-indicted Democrat Andrew Gillum after a recount by less than half a point—just 30,000 votes out of more than 8 million cast. Since then, DeSantis has made a splash on the national stage thanks to his handling of COVID-19 and talent for culture-war provocations, from taking on Disney and critical race theory to the recent migrant gambit. He’s increasingly seen as a frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination, whether or not Trump enters the race. And Democrats seem powerless to stop him.

It’s a befuddling situation in what used to be America’s paradigmatic swing state: rather than mount a massive effort to take out or at least bruise DeSantis, Democrats are effectively allowing the Republican they fear most to coast to reelection.
Are they doing this because they don't fear him? I always imagine Democratic operatives as people who believe what the mainstream media writes about 2024: Hey, if the Republican presidential nominee isn't Trump, it really could be Mike Pence, Glenn Youngkin, Nikki Haley, or Mike Pompeo! (Nope -- if Trump doesn't win the nomination, it'll be DeSantis.)

Maybe Democrats couldn't have put up a serious challenge to DeSantis this year, given how much money he's raised. But the counterargument is that he's gone out of his way to alienate everyone in the center and the right, which would seem to make him at least somewhat vulnerable. And the polls show that: According to the FiveThirtyEight polling average, DeSantis is leading Crist by only 5.6 points. According to Real Clear Politics, his lead is even smaller -- 4.8.

Even if you don't believe he's beatable, roughing him up is a way of roughing up the narrative and talking points Republicans intend to take into 2024: that everyone hated the public health measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID, that everyone hates gay and trans people, that everyone thinks talking about America's racial past in schools is anti-white bigotry, that everyone hates immigrants, that everyone likes meanness. If Democrats had put some resources into this race, DeSantis might have won anyway, buy he at least might have had to sweat through a vote count that extended well past Election Night, and he might have had only a squeaker of a win -- a humiliation for a politician as arrogant as DeSantis. The takeaway might have been that in-your-face Republican extremism isn't a winning strategy -- and DeSantis really isn't the future of the party.

But I assume that the Democratic Party is thinking primarily about 2022 now and can't be bothered thinking about the future. Trying to beat DeSantis would cost too much money, money that would be better spent in other races.

But DeSantis might have lost this year. Sometimes the rich candidate loses. And the 2024 election cycle will be here very soon. Maybe a little foresight now would have been helpful two years from now.

No comments: