As I promised on Friday, I’m going to risk the good will – and, let’s face it, the near-worshipful admiration – of many in CO nation by declaring my ‘druthers in the upcoming Trump v. DeSantis primary battle.
I hesitate to do this, partly because I think I’m going to be disagreeing with the esteemed CO, and as we all know, if you’re on the opposite side of an issue from CO, you’re almost guaranteed to be wrong. (Except when he’s in a dispute with the COW, in which case we all just huddle in a corner and wish that dad and mom would stop fighting.)
CO wrote a rightly outraged piece after Trump was indicted, saying that after that illegitimate exercise, he is backing Trump. Many on our side have obviously done the same, since Trump’s poll support and fundraising have jumped post-indictment.
So I know that Trump is the odds-on favorite to win the GOP nomination right now. But I’m going to make the case for DeSantis anyway.
I actually made part of this argument in a column that is now posted at Martinsimpsonwriting.com, and dated 11/14/22. So if you are interested, please go there, scroll down the right side list of my columns, and read that piece first. I still believe that what I said then is correct, but in this column I’m updating and expanding my thoughts based in part on the added data that I’ve seen over the last 5 months.
To summarize that piece, I give Trump huge credit for far exceeding my expectations when I voted for him in 2016, I voted for him in enthusiastically in 2020, and will do so again if he’s the nominee in 2024. He has more conservative presidential governance accomplishments than anyone since Reagan, and the heart of my argument is really more pro-RDS rather than anti-Trump.
That said, I have three main theses today. (Martin Luther had 96; Martin Simpson has only three. Does that mean that I’m better than Luther? Probably. Also, suck it, all you who say I’m too long-winded!)
(Okay, that last thought clearly proves that I’m not better than Luther. Because no one can imagine Luther saying, “Suck it, Zwingli and the current Pope!”)
(Although don’t you think I should get some extra points for that deep pull from the semi-obscure Protestant reformers category? How many of you have a relevant Ulrich Zwingli reference chambered and ready at a moment’s notice? Show of hands?)
Where was I?
1. We have to win!
2 Leftist Dems are the real opposition.
3. Politics 101: make it as easy as possible to vote for you and as hard as possible to vote for the other guy.
1. Ultimately I think that RDS has the better chance to win in ’24, for several reasons:
He’s got the crucial upside that Trump has – the willingness/appetite to fight back – but with much greater target discipline. (I can’t imagine RDS spending time on Rosie O’Donnell’s weight, or the equine qualities of a porn star’s face, for example.)
His executive performance as governor is easily better than anyone else’s since Reagan. It’s true that presidential experience is at a higher level, but governing a huge state is the closest a non-prez can come, and RDS has nailed it.
He’s taken principled, conservative stands on one issue after another, and many of them have been quite risky: he re-opened the state and lifted mask and vax mandates very early during covid; he’s taken on education behemoths at the K-12 and university levels that no governor ever has; he punched back on tourism/financial giant Disney, and took away their sweetheart tax breaks.
He’s been very strong on gun rights, and on abortion, the latter of which opens him to a lot more political risks than if he had stuck with a 15-week ban (already the strongest in all but the reddest of states). He’s also been excellent on taxes and fiscal responsibility, as well as strengthening voting integrity, which might be the most important single issue, since all other political outcomes depend on clean elections.
And the results have proven him right.
Florida has been the most purple of battleground states for two decades. Our nation was spared an Al Gore presidency in 2000 by less than 800 votes here! In the last 7 presidential elections, FL went GOP in 4 and Dem in 3, and the winning percentages in the last 4 have been 50.9% & 50.01% by Obama, and 49.02% & 51.22% by Trump.
It was still that tight when DeSantis won in 2018, squeaking by a terrible, little-known Dem candidate by less than half of one percent, and only 30,000 votes. Four years later, DeSantis won in an unprecedented landslide, beating a high-name-recognition FL ex-governor by almost 20%, with a winning margin of over 1.5 million votes!
DeSantis did in a divided state what the GOP has not been able to do in a divided nation since 1980: win going away. He even won in deep-blue, urban Palm Beach and Dade counties, which hadn’t happened since the Conquistadors overcame a huge panhandle majority for the Seminoles to take the 17th century!
Next, I hate this fact, but I have to say it: most presidential elections are determined by the votes of independents in the middle. The mushy, moderate, “thou art lukewarm, so I spit thee out of my mouth!” middle.
Committed Dems will vote for a barely animated corpse if he’s got a “D” by his name. They’ve voted for a fake Indian (#wemustneverstopmockingher) and a real socialist (dozens of them, in fact), and they’ll continually re-elect the locust-swarm of career pols who have been destroying their cities for decades.
They voted for John Fetterman even though he opened a debate by saying goodnight, and then stood there swaying and drooling on his shoes for 90 minutes!
Similarly, committed Republicans will hold their noses and vote for RINOs and weirdos against Dems, and I’m no different than the rest. (If I woke up on election morning and found out that Satan was running at the top of the GOP ticket, I’d have to hesitate. But if Satan was even half-decent on immigration and a few other issues, I’d be Team Satan ’24!)
I voted for McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012, for crying out loud! (And yes, I’ve compulsively showered ever since. And no, I can never completely wash the shame away.)
But we shouldn’t ultimately pick a candidate who can win the GOP base, but is a toss-up at best in a general election. And this is where I think DeSantis has a definite edge over Trump.
I’m going to cite some general trends in polls, but I must state up front the caveats that polls can be biased and wrong and all the rest. Everyone cites them when they’re good and bashes them when they’re bad. But in the aggregate and over time, they’re the only info we’ve got, absent an election.
Obviously Trump’s poll numbers in the GOP primary are strong, and getting stronger since the indictment; he’s the smart money bet to win the nomination right now. But RDS consistently polls better with independents than Trump does, averaging around 15 points higher with that group.
Trump has a much higher floor so far – many GOP voters will stick with him no matter what – but he’s got a carved-in-stone ceiling, too. Trump-hatred is now irreversibly baked into the cake for many non-GOP voters. Some large proportion of the country – 40%? 45%? – hate his guts, and they will never, ever vote for him.
DeSantis partisans shouldn’t be too sanguine about that, because the Dems and the dishonest MSM – but I repeat myself – are going to smear RDS and bring his numbers with independents down, just like they do with every GOP candidate.
But Trump’s negatives are set in stone, while DeSantis has the chance to conduct a strong campaign and good debates – if he’s as disciplined in ’24 as he has been for the last 5 years – to limit or even counter much of the damage.
2. The leftist Dems are our real opposition, and I think that fact gives RDS an advantage, too.
DeSantis has been very effective and disciplined on the attack, and always against the Dems and on strategic policy grounds. And he has the sense of humor of a happy warrior (which Trump, at his best, also has). Flying the illegals to Martha’s Vineyard was a wry shot at leftist hypocrisy. He announced one conservative policy in tiny little Brandon, Florida, just for the winking joke.
And he deftly skewers reporters and counters leftist smears in press conferences with just the right touch of pugnacity without red-faced anger. The cliché of “an iron fist within a velvet glove,” comes to mind.
For Trump, unleashing strong, often entertaining attacks on opponents has always been a strength. He’s all iron fist and no glove, and the iron fist has little spikes welded to each knuckle. And it’s holding a mace, with bigger spikes on it.
But he tends to wield it in all directions, and against all foes, including non-politicians (fat Rosie, horseface Stormy, Megyn Kelly, etc.), Republicans (Little Marco, Low Energy Jeb), and the Dems.
I’ve never been that bothered by his insults, because they were often just returning fire, and they were mostly against people who deserved it. And I understand the rough elbows during a primary, where you need to beat your GOP rivals to get to the general.
But some of Trump’s insults are gratuitously mean enough that they reflect worse on him than his targets. To call Ted Cruz’s wife ugly and say that his dad killed JFK is just creepy. To mock McCain for having been a captured POW is not a good look, especially for someone who hasn’t served.
In general, I think most hard-edged insults to decent conservatives – even if they are too moderate for my taste, as most of them are – don’t help. When it came to governing, he needed people like Rubio and Cruz, and if they had been as petty when he was president as Trump had been during the primaries, they could have crippled his agenda.
McCain WAS that petty, and he killed the repeal of Obamacare as a consequence. That’s primarily on McCain, but it’s no credit to Trump, either.
One other issue on which Trump has been attacking in all directions involves the way he’s driven to relitigate and get vengeance for 2020. I completely understand this, and empathize with his justified anger, as I’ve said elsewhere. If I had been in his shoes, and had been as thoroughly screwed as he was in that election, I would probably spend a lot of time seeking revenge, too. (Have I mentioned that I’m an Appalachian-American, and prone to feudin’?)
But it’s not useful, and a disciplined candidate would eschew it. It takes the focus off of your opponent’s weaknesses, and frustrates and exhausts everyone who doesn’t already love you.
And when one of your negatives with many independents is your ego, it makes the next election an individual psychodrama that is all about you, instead of a fight for the future of the nation that is all about delivering us from the disastrous reign of Biden!
In fact, his anger over 2020 helped us lose the 2 senate seats in GA in 2021 that allowed Biden to spend 6 trillion, open the border completely, etc. Trump’s personal grudge against Brian Kemp in GA led him to push a hugely unpopular Perdue gubernatorial campaign in ‘22. Only Kemp’s primary win and strong performance spared us from Governor Stacey Abrams!
His attacks against other GOP candidates before and since the midterm election were especially ill-considered. He held a rally a week before the expected “red wave” election, and he criticized DeSantis and Youngkin (2 GOP bright spots in the last several years) as much as he did the Democrats.
Even if you argue that GOP-on-GOP attacks are justified during a primary, nobody can say that they’re helpful on the eve of an election, when the real fire should be focused on the opposing party and their terrible candidates and policies!
Darn it! After making an early crack about how I’m not too long-winded, I realize that this column is too long, and will need to be broken into two parts, for those of you who care to continue. (Oh, the irony!)
So I’m going to stop now, and ask you to look on the bright side, cautious optimists: I’ll post the second half tomorrow, making this a rare, three-column week!
“Dr.” Jill Biden/Satan (D-Hell), 2024!
3 thoughts on “My Take on Trump v. DeSantis, Part 1 (posted 4/17/23)”
I would, at this point, be surprised to see DeSantis announce for 2024. I don’t think he’s going to run this time. he’s smarter than that, and I think he knows he’ll lose. He’ll lose because the party remains Trump’s, and if he declares now all he’ll do is piss off most republican voters, who are plainly showing a clear preference – rightly or wrongly – for Trump. They will not vote for DeSantis now, and probably a good many of them will not vote for DeSantis EVER if he now chooses to go up against – or, as they’ll see it, “betray” – Trump. He knows that – how could he not? – and he’s smarter than that.
Plus he has a great deal to do here in Florida, a job he’s only halfway completed. If he leaves it largely undone to go play on the national stage, it’s just going to annoy a lot of the folks back home, and he may not even win the favorite son vote as people watch their insurance rates double, triple, quadruple… (Mine doubled. In a year. One year. I’m not alone.)
He is, in one sense, peaking now. But at the same time, “now” is not propitious for him. There is a boulder in the path, named Trump. It will not go away. It’ll either win next year, or it’ll be beaten by the Pisswit Party, or, as is more likely, cheated out of it by said party – but it is not going to bow out gracefully. It will be nothing but trouble. DeSantis, I’m sure, knows this. He won’t challenge. He’s (a) busy, and (b) he knows, or should know, he won’t win.
Thanks for your thoughts, Harry. I’m not convinced by your whole argument, but it’s got some merit. I’m insuring 4 buildings in FL (our home and three old rental houses), and they’ve gone from the $1900-2300 annual rate to $3600-5700 rate in 2 years. And I live in the middle of the state, 90 miles from both the Gulf and the Atlantic!
But if you’ve got some solution to that — or think that Trump or DeSantis or anyone else can easily fix it — please let me know, so I can tell my insurers! As I understand it, the problem is that there are trillions of dollars’ worth of beach front or beach adjacent properties in a state that gets devastating hurricanes on a regular basis. For 60 years near-beach property owners have been paying way less than market rates to cover their risk of loss, and the only two obvious courses of action leave a lot to be desired: either near-beach owners have to pay MUCH higher rates that would work actuarially to replace their homes (with all of the negative consequences of that), or everyone in FL will have to pay much higher rates to subsidize the high-dollar near-beach residents to rebuild their homes every 5-10 years.
I’m glad I’m not in charge of solving that Gordian-knot of a problem. But I’m also not happy that my insurance bills are exploding.
As far as the polls you cite, they definitely show that DeSantis is a serious underdog against Trump in the primary, and it’s probably the smarter — definitely the safer! — bet for DeSantis to stand down this year. But those same polls also show that Trump will narrowly lose against Biden, while DeSantis would narrowly win. If DeSantis thinks that’s the case, and if he has the stones I think he has, he might follow the riskier path of running anyway.
My greatest fear is that the Dems’ sleazy tactics right now will be successful: they indict Trump with totally BS charges in 3 states (all of which will eventually be thrown out or overturned on appeal, but way too late for the 24 election), and enough GOP voters rally to his cause because of that unfairness, and he wins the nomination. Then, after 18 months of angry, punching-in-all-directions Trump increases the Trump fatigue among the independents and non-hard-core Trump base, he either loses the election outright, or wins so narrowly (in reality) that he’ll “lose” the same way he did in 2020.
If that likely scenario starts to develop through this summer and early Fall, I think more conservatives will be mad/disappointed with DeSantis than glad that he didn’t even try to prevent a second Biden term.
Also, if the Dems have four more years, I think one thing is certain, and two things are possible. The certainty is that the country will sustain even more near-fatal damage: another 4-5 million illegals entrenched here; another $8-12 trillion in national debt that is already going to be crippling to the economy; at least 1 and maybe 2 Supreme Court seats filled by Ketanji- and Sotomayor-esque far-left mediocrities; China takes Taiwan and America loses a great deal of what influence we have left on the world stage, etc.
The two options after that: either the country is so sick of the obvious Democrat destruction that they elect a GOP president to try to start picking up the pieces. (This is my best-case scenario, but after the mid-term of 2022 — which in any sane country would have been a red tsunami —
I don’t think it’s the smartest bet, tragically.)
Or the corruption and rot will be so set in stone that future elections are so rigged that they are unwinnable for conservatives. After that… national divorce or civil war?
I don’t think there’s an EASY solution for Florida’s insurance issues, but there is an obvious one, and DeSantis touched on it last week. (Or maybe it was two weeks ago, don’t remember.) Anyway, he mentioned getting a collar and leash on the ambulance-chaser bar, which seems to me to be a very good first step.
I really don’t buy into the idea that average folks are paying higher rates to sustain beach-front houses in Palm Beach, or Hobe Sound. Those high-dollar people are high-dollar: Rush Limbaugh, to take one example about whom we all know, didn’t even bother to insure his $35 million Palm Beach compound, he just handled it himself.
A problem Florida has is that it’s always been a fruitful field for the “plaintiff’s bar.” I can recall seeing TV commercials for them back in the 1950s, and it hasn’t improved. (Though, sadly, Nozzle Nolan no longer buys time. Back in those days his commercials were locally produced, and done by Nozzle himself – they were great!) (Never mind, you’re too young.)
But now every other commercial you see is for these guys. I don’t know if you’ve ever lived anywhere else, but I have: NY, MA, CT, WA, CA, and stops elsewhere. In those places I never once saw a commercial featuring testimonials that began: “I was sitting minding my own business at a stoplight, and some dangerous driver ran into me, and my ambulance-chaser, George Sharkbite got me $800,000 for my fender-bender.” In those states – and most states – they don’t allow lawyers to advertise like this.
It’s that way for homeowners, too. The insurance companies jack the rates up because they know if a storm comes through, they’re going to get killed twice: once legitimately for claims, and then a second time because there’ll be swarms of lawsuits bitching that the payouts for the claims should have been bigger, because of… ? and they’ll get to pay for years ion court, and jury verdicts will inevitably go against them.
The end result of that is that there are fewer and fewer and fewer insurers willing to work in Florida, and the ones that do have to raise the rates exorbitantly just to be able to stay in business and pay the “lawyer tax.” (And I just note, in passing as it were, that every single thing you buy in this country costs more than it should, because every single company that does business in this country, not just Florida, has to build in some room for the expenses of fighting the lawyers, who, sooner or later, will find a reason to sue them.)
DeSantis proposed looking into getting a handle on these jury awards. That would be an excellent first step toward getting a handle on the cost of insurance in this state. (I only own two places, each of which costs more than $9,000 a year. Today. Next year it’ll likely be more.) If the insurance companies had some hope of only paying what they contracted to pay, rather than having that tripled by lawsuits, they might be less likely to leave. If they didn’t leave, there would be more of them, and they’d compete, thereby pushing prices down. This is normal, basic, economic theory – but it derails when you throw lawyers in there.
I don’t know why there are any insurance companies left in Florida, frankly. If I owned an insurance company this would be the last place I’d be interested in trying to do business. But I do think DeSantis may have put his finger on something.