Two Campaign Updates From…Where else? The Florida Of Ron DeSantis

August 12th, 2023 by Tom Lynch

Governor Ron DeSantis miscalculated badly

Writing in the Cook Political Report yesterday morning, Amy Walter reported on her conversation with Sarah Longwell, publisher of The Bulwark and a leader in the Republican Accountability Project. Over the last couple of years, Longwell has been conducting interviews and focus groups with Republican Primary voters to learn how they view their party, their candidates and the political climate. Longwell and Walter discussed the DeSantis campaign on this week’s episode of the Cook Political Report’s podcast, The Odd Years. Longwell told Walter voters believe DeSantis has made four critical mistakes in his run for the White House.

First, he entered the race too late and did it badly when he did jump in (Remember his technology-plagued announcement on Twitter sans video, sans sound?).

His propitious moment was the end of 2022 when he had a lot of wind at his back nationally. Longwell said, “There was the big Ron DeSantis boomlet. In the focus groups, we would have whole groups all the time who wanted Ron DeSantis to be the nominee. In fact, it was so complete and total, the interest in Ron DeSantis, that we actually started screening for sort of high favorability of Trump to find the Trump voters.” At that point, DeSantis was polling very close to Trump.

But DeSantis waited—until after Trump was indicted, which energized the Trump MAGA universe, and the Florida Governor has never recovered.

Second, nearly all of the likely voters reported their main concern in the upcoming election was law and order, not a war on Woke culture. They want a candidate who will focus hard on criminal justice and not get lost in battles about gender identity or LGBTQ+ issues. But DeSantis has based his entire campaign on becoming the anti-Woke candidate, and that is not selling.

Third, one has to account for DeSantis’s insularity (in the beginning he would only talk with friendly reporters from Fox News) and inexperience on the big stage. As Amy Walter writes, “I am a big believer that every campaign is ultimately a reflection of the candidate. In this case, DeSantis’ campaign reflected his wariness and discomfort with bringing new voices into his very small and parochial circle of loyalists — including his campaign manager, who had no experience in doing a job this big.” The result is embarrassing for him—in his short time as a candidate he has already had two campaign staff shakeups. His new nickname among the press—one Donald Trump did not invent—is Trainwreck Ron.

Fourth, when voters got to see him, “they found out he was weird,” according to Sarah Longwell. The man is an uncomfortable candidate. He has a weird laugh. He doesn’t know how to make small talk. And he’s bad at retail politics. A losing combination, if there ever was one. Financial Times columnist Janan Ganesh notes that DeSantis, who speaks “in a sort of monotone nag,” could “illuminate a stage by getting off it.”

Candidates who are losing, and losing badly, react. DeSantis is now nearly 40 points behind Trump, and this week he reacted to the perception he’s all about the culture wars and light on law and order by once again removing from office a prosecutor elected to the office. This makes two. Last year’s victim was Hillsborough’s State Attorney, Andrew Warren. Florida law allows the Governor to do this (hard to understand, but there it is), and this time he did it to State Attorney Monique Worrell, duly elected by the citizens of Orange-Osceola county. Why did he do this? In his executive order removing her, he accused her of policies “allowing violent offenders, drug traffickers, serious juvenile offenders, and pedophiles to evade incarceration.”

WOW! That sounds bad. How did she ever get elected? When pressed by reporters from the Tampa Bay Times, though, neither the Governor nor his staff could or would provide any credible evidence of Worrell actually acting in this way. No cases of pedophiles, or drug traffickers, or any other convicted criminals evading incarceration.

But now the Governor has checked a box in the law and order column. He’s on his way.

High School kids in Florida will now take AP Psychology

After serious blowback from more than 30,000 parents of high school seniors who had been  deprived the opportunity to take the College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) Psychology course in the Sunshine State because, as part of its curriculum, the course covered gender identity and sexual orientation, Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz informed school boards yesterday that the students actually could take the course, because doing so would no longer violate new state law prohibiting such instruction. That is the definition of pretzel logic.

The problem now is that most school boards, having been told teaching the course would violate the law, either removed it from the year’s curriculum, or contracted with another company to offer another version of AP Psychology. Unfortunately, this is not the course certified by the College Board, the organization that certifies AP courses for inclusion on a student’s transcript.

A bigger problem, of course, is that the Florida school year began two days ago, and courses have been pretty much curing in educational cement for the last week, or so. Wonderful timing, Commissioner Diaz.

This culture war stuff has turned Florida into an upside down state led by a man becoming more clueless every day. Perhaps the Governor should rethink his current career objectives, go home, lick his considerable wounds, and ponder 2028 when Donald Trump will be 82 years old and either spending his days in Leavenworth Federal Prison, or, having been exiled to Scotland, residing at his “very fine” golf course in an apartment built purely for the purpose of housing him in his dotage.

One can hope, anyway.