Tuesday, September 20, 2022


I think Nick Catoggio, the commentator formerly known as Allahpundit, could be right when he argues that Donald Trump will probably start attacking Ron DeSantis relatively soon:
At some point an impatient narcissist will no longer be able to ignore his rival’s effrontery, especially if it’s cutting into his camera time. It’s one thing for DeSantis to steal Trump’s hand gestures, it’s another for him to steal the policy issue on which Trump has made his bones as a “fighter.” The day Trump loses his distinction as “King of the Jerks” to DeSantis is the day we have a bona fide fight on our hands for the 2024 nomination.

Which is one reason I think his patience with DeSantis—his willingness to hold his tongue about the younger man—is about to run out.
The reason I think Catoggio is right is that right-wingers seem to regard DeSantis's Martha's Vineyard stunt not merely as an enjoyable act of lib-owning, but as one of the most monumental acts of lib-owning in American history. It's quite possible that the next several polls of the 2024 GOP presidential contest will show DeSantis beating Trump. (According to Real Clear Politics, Trump has been beating DeSantis in the polls by an average of 30 points.) Trump needs to regain the upper hand. (Maybe he should ask the FBI to search Mar-a-Lago again. That was excellent for his poll numbers.)

But I don't agree with Catoggio about this:
DeSantis’ entire case against Trump in the 2024 primary rests on electability....

The yardstick for relative electability is destined to be DeSantis’ margin of victory in Florida against Democrat Charlie Crist. Trump won Florida by 3.5 percentage points in 2020; DeSantis would like to double that margin if possible, never mind the obvious differences between the caliber of opponent he and Trump each faced and the dynamics of a presidential cycle versus a midterm cycle.

... Because DeSantis will be more or less attractive to Republican voters in 2024 depending upon how gaudy his margin of victory is, Trump has every incentive to do what he can to hold down that margin of victory. That means attacking DeSantis now—before the gubernatorial election—in the hope that some meaningful number of MAGA diehards will decline to turn out for the governor in November in protest. After all, if DeSantis were to beat Crist by only 3 points instead of 7, that might functionally end his 2024 hopes.
First, I don't agree that "DeSantis’ entire case against Trump in the 2024 primary rests on electability." Republican voters who worry that the rest of us hate Trump so much he can't win seem to believe that the key to victory in 2024 is simply not picking Trump. Their preference for DeSantis isn't that they think he's more electable -- it's that his incessant lib-owning efforts give them immense pleasure.

Also, do you think Republican voters will really parse numbers this way? Remember, in 2016 Trump lost the popular vote by 3 points and won the Electoral College by less than 100, and he regularly said that he won in a "landslide." THe Republican base never questioned this. If DeSantis wins, the margin won't matter to the GOP base; FiveThirtyEight and panels on Morning Joe will carefully analyze Trump's and DeSantis's relative performance, but Republican voters won't. And if DeSantis wins but underperforms, every GOP voter will just blame Democratic fraud (as, I assume, will DeSantis himself).

And this kind of sabotage isn't Trump's M.O. -- remember, he's not even trying to hurt Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger, the two highest-profile pols in statewide races who defied him and survived primaries.

Catoggio think Trump might attack DeSantis on a couple of issues:
One is abortion. For all his usual maximalist bravado, DeSantis is a shrewd politician with the good sense not to press his luck on the ultimate culture-war issue amid an apparent national backlash to the end of Roe. The 15-week ban he signed into law earlier this year is an uncharacteristically moderate compromise designed to prevent the issue from galvanizing Democratic turnout in Florida in November....

Trump could challenge him on that.
Abortion? Trump doesn't really care about it. He only seated the Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe because he wanted to be loved by evangelicals.
Which leaves us with the nuclear option, Trump’s second potential line of attack on DeSantis. He could demand that the governor answer forthrightly whether he believes the 2020 election was stolen or not.

DeSantis has practiced strategic ambiguity on that question for nearly two years. He won’t say that the election was rigged, but he will campaign for election deniers. He won’t declare that the election should have been overturned, but he did call on voters to report suspected lawbreaking to their state legislators around the time Trump was trying to convince swing states to certify his electors as legitimate. He has been and hopes to forever remain half-pregnant on the subject....
Trump might attack him on that. But I suspect Catoggio is thinking too much like a political commentator.

In the 2016 campaign, what did Trump mainly attack Marco Rubio on? His height. How did Trump attack Ted Cruz? He attacked Cruz's wife's looks and his pals at The National Enquirer concocted a cockamamie story about Cruz's father participating in the assassination of JFK.

So my guess is that when Trump astarts attacking DeSantis, he'll attack in non-political terms. He'll attack him on his height, or on some obscure incident in his past, or allies like Roger Stone (who loathes DeSantis) will float completely unfounded rumors about him, which Trump will amplify. Stone already insinuated that DeSantis cheats on his wife after DeSantis was out of the public eye briefly last winter:

I expect Trump to take some potshots at DeSantis in the near future, but I think he'll save most of his ammo for the campaign. This could get ugly (I hope).

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