Tuesday, September 27, 2022


If you learn nothing else from Gabriel Sherman's Vanity Fair feature story about Ron DeSantis, you'll at least learn this: DeSantis is extraordinarily unlikable.
DeSantis’s offices have earned a reputation as very unhappy places to work. “When you work for Ron, he makes you feel like you’re just lucky to be there,” a former gubernatorial aide said. “I once had to drive him to the airport. We got stuck in traffic for an hour, and he didn’t say a word,” a former congressional staffer told me. “I describe him as having the personality of a piece of paper.” Last year, Politico reported ex-DeSantis staffers had formed a “support group” to commiserate over their bruising experiences. “He’s a terrible bully,” a past adviser said.
DeSantis is so bad at normal human interaction that he can't even manage to be nice to rich donors.
“The biggest complaint you hear about DeSantis is that he never says thank you,” a veteran GOP strategist said. “People host events where donors give him enormous sums of money, and he never says thank you.” ... People describe DeSantis’s personality as a mix of extreme arrogance and painful awkwardness. “He’s missing the sociability gene,” a prominent Republican said, relaying an oft-stated critique. “He doesn’t do the warm and fuzzies well. I was at a fundraiser in DC where he was like two hours late. Everyone was like, What the fuck?” recalled a GOP strategist....

DeSantis has flashed his notorious temper in front of donors. In December 2021, DeSantis had a mini-meltdown when he was interviewed onstage by billionaire investor Charles Schwab during a fundraiser at The Breakers in Palm Beach. According to an attendee, DeSantis monopolized the discussion until a visibly frustrated Schwab interjected. “You don’t get to ask the questions and give the answers,” Schwab said. DeSantis looked enraged. After the interview, DeSantis left the stage without shaking Schwab’s hand. “This was in front of donors paying $50,000,” the attendee said. Last February, DeSantis annoyed donors at a fundraiser at the JW Marriott in Washington. “He was onstage and said, ‘I’m the reason why people move to Florida,’” an attendee recalled.
It would be nice to think that this will be his undoing, but the donors don't seem to mind:
According to disclosures, DeSantis has raised a record-breaking $172 million since August 2019. His Democratic opponent [in the Florida governor's race], Charlie Crist, has raised just $15.3 million.

DeSantis’s political power flows from the fact that he is equally popular with the donor class and a GOP base that has otherwise shown utmost fealty to Trump. Billionaires like Citadel founder Ken Griffin and real estate mogul and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross love DeSantis’s elite credentials—Yale, Harvard, the Navy—and his deregulatory zeal. He’s Trump “without the insanity and the tweets at three in the morning,” one top GOP donor told me.
Clearly, the donor class doesn't care that he's a jerk, as long as he's willing to cut their taxes and eliminate regulations.

But won't DeSantis's insufferable personality hurt him in the primaries? Sherman thinks it might:
It’s hard to see how he would perform in early primary-season states like Iowa and New Hampshire that reward retail politicians who connect with voters on the ground. “Can a guy who doesn’t have any time for the rituals and practices of politics—the backslapping, handshaking, how are the kids?—succeed?” asked a longtime Trump adviser. “When you have a CNN embed with you videoing you every day meeting voters, then we see who you really are,” said another Republican.
But in 2016, when Donald Trump won the nomination, do you remember who had the second-highest total of votes, delegates, and states won? Ted Cruz -- one of the least likable people on the planet. It's widely known that even Cruz's Republican Senate colleagues don't like him. But he got nearly eight million votes in the primaries. (Trump got fourteen million.) If Trump hadn't been in the field, I think Cruz would have won the nomination.

The dominant figure in the Republican Party since 2015 has been a personable, gregarious asshole -- but doesn't mean that it's important for the next leader of the party to be personable and gregarious. I think the asshole part of the formula is the key. Republican voters like assholes -- if you're vehemently right-wing and people dislike you, the GOP electorate figures you must be doing something right.

So I think the GOP voters believe it's a good thing that DeSantis is abrasively obnoxious. That's a sign that he's capable of infuriating the people they want to infuriate. So his thoroughly unpleasant personality could actually be an asset for him in the 2024 primaries.

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