Like everyone else, I listened to DeSantis’s botched Twitter Spaces launch, but then reached some conclusions about the trajectory of his campaign at New York:
Before long, the laughter over the technical glitches that marred Ron DeSantis’s official presidential campaign launch with Elon Musk on Twitter Spaces will fade. We’ll all probably look back and place this moment in better perspective. Political-media folk (not to mention DeSantis’s Republican rivals and Democratic enemies) tend to overreact to “game changing” moments in campaigns when fundamentals and long-term trends matter infinitely more. Relatively few actual voters were tuned in to Twitter to watch the botched launch, and even fewer will think less of DeSantis as a potential president because of this incident.
It mattered in one respect, however: The screwed-up launch stepped all over a DeSantis campaign reset designed to depict the Florida governor as a political Death Star with unlimited funds and an unbeatable strategy for winning the GOP nomination. The reset was important to rebut the prevailing story line that DeSantis had lost an extraordinary amount of ground since the salad days following his landslide reelection last year, when he briefly looked to be consolidating partywide support as a more electable and less erratic replacement for Donald Trump. For reasons both within and beyond his control, he missed two critical strategic objectives going into the 2024 race: keeping the presidential field small enough to give him a one-on-one shot at Trump and keeping Trump from reestablishing himself as the front-runner with an air of inevitability about a third straight nomination.
To dissipate growing concerns about the DeSantis candidacy, the top chieftains of his Never Back Down super-PAC let it be known earlier this week that they had a plan that would shock and awe the political world, based on their extraordinary financial resources (fed by an $80 million surplus DeSantis transferred from his Florida reelection campaign account). The New York Times wrote up the scheme without questioning its connection to reality:
“A key political group supporting Ron DeSantis’s presidential run is preparing a $100 million voter-outreach push so big it plans to knock on the door of every possible DeSantis voter at least four times in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — and five times in the kickoff Iowa caucuses.
“The effort is part of an on-the-ground organizing operation that intends to hire more than 2,600 field organizers by Labor Day, an extraordinary number of people for even the best-funded campaigns….
“The group said it expected to have an overall budget of at least $200 million.”
In case the numbers didn’t properly document the audacity of this plan, Team DeSantis made it explicit. The Times report continues:
“‘No one has ever contemplated the scale of this organization or operation, let alone done it,’ said Chris Jankowski, the group’s chief executive. ‘This has just never even been dreamed up.’” …
At the helm of the DeSantis super PAC is Jeff Roe, a veteran Republican strategist who was Mr. [Ted] Cruz’s campaign manager in 2016. In an interview, Mr. Roe described an ambitious political apparatus whose 2,600 field organizers by the fall would be roughly double the peak of Senator Bernie Sanders’s entire 2020 primary campaign staff.
Clearly opening up the thesaurus to find metaphors for the extraordinary power and glory of their plans, one DeSantis operative told the Dispatch they were “light speed and light years ahead of any campaign out there, including Trump’s.”
Now more than ever, DeSantis’s campaign will have to prove its grand plans aren’t just fantasies. Those doors in Iowa really will have to be knocked. Thanks to Trump’s current lead, DeSantis will absolutely have to beat expectations there and do just as well in New Hampshire and South Carolina before facing an existential challenge in his and Trump’s home state of Florida. And while DeSantis had a good weekend in Iowa recently, picking up a lot of state legislative endorsements even as Trump canceled a rally due to bad weather that never arrived, he’s got a ways to go. A new Emerson poll of the first-in-the-nation-caucuses state shows Trump leading by an astonishing margin of 62 percent to 20 percent. And obviously enough, Iowa is where DeSantis will likely face the largest number of rivals aside from Trump; he’s a sudden surge from Tim Scott or Mike Pence or Nikki Haley or even Vivek Ramaswamy away from a real Iowa crisis.
Door knocking aside, a focus on Iowa, with its base-dominated caucus system and its large and powerful conservative Evangelical population, will likely force DeSantis to run to Trump’s right even more than he already has. The newly official candidate did not mention abortion policy during his launch event on Twitter; that will have to change, since he has a crucial opportunity to tell Iowa Evangelicals about the six-week ban he recently signed (similar, in fact, to the law Iowa governor Kim Reynolds enacted), in contrast to Trump’s scolding of the anti-abortion movement for extremism. DeSantis also failed once again to talk about his own religious faith, whatever it is; that will probably have to change in Iowa too. He did, however, talk a lot during the launch about his battle against the COVID-19 restrictions the federal government sought to impose on Florida even during the Trump administration. That will very likely continue.
The glitchy launch basically cost DeSantis whatever room for maneuvering he might have enjoyed as the 2024 competition begins to get very real — less than eight months before Iowa Republicans caucus (the exact date remains TBD). He’d better get used to spending a lot of time in Iowa’s churches and Pizza Ranches, and he also needs to begin winning more of the exchanges of potshots with Trump, which will only accelerate from here on out. All the money he has and all the hype and spin his campaign puts out won’t win the nomination now that Trump is fully engaged, and it sure doesn’t look like the 45th president’s legal problems will represent anything other than rocket fuel for his jaunt through the primaries. So for DeSantis, it’s time to put up or shut up.
I appreciate your taking note of it. That’s more than Political Wire is doing.
While I don’t necessarily share your less-than-happy assessment of what Barack Obama will do as president, I do share your anguish about the underside of last night’s results. The Prop 8 win was a shock (check out the county-by-county numbers at the LA Times site to see the very limited areas in which it lost), and the Florida initiative was even worse, since it required so large a vote.
We intend to do some analysis on this subject at TDS, with the goal of helping break the back of state-sponsored homophobia in the future. That’s a very small contribution to a big challenge, but we must all do what we can, or every celebration will leave someone on the sidelines, unable to join in.
Thanks for the comment.
At the same time they embraced a black man, voters all over America punished and persecuted gay men and lesbians.
An Obama administration intent on consensus, determined to achieve legislative victories not by majorities of 60 but by majoriities of 80 and 85 in the Senate, cannot be expected to do much for them. The value of the new Democratic majorities will be measured mainly in what they will not do. No Constitutional amendment targeting homosexuals, for example.
And should the Congress bother (in these trying times) to re-enact employment non-discrimination, or add gays and lesbians to hate crimes legislation, Obama will presumably sign the bill. We can expect the White House to issue another executive order forbidding discrimination in the civil service. Gay men and lesbians in the military can probably sit and stew for the next four years unless they roll legislation ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by their own efforts. Obama may not hinder it, but he won’t expend political capital in his first term to help them.
This centrist administration will make mostly symbolic gestures and get out of the way of the determined advocates of gay and lesbian equality, but it won’t be a determined advocate, or much of an advocate, at all. I accept that. It’s better than the last 8 years, that’s for sure.
But they’re hunting us in California, they’re hunting us in Arkansas, they’re hunting us in Florida, they’re hunting us in Arizona. The most we’ll get from the White House to protect us from the states is a cup of tea and a kind word.
All this election has done for gay people is de-federalize an assault on our citizenship and liberties and return it to the states. This should have been a happy day for all Americans. For some of us, it isn’t altogether that.
In no state where attacks on gays and lesbians were on the ballot did kindness, generosity, or even good sense prevail. America didn’t give up hating this year. It just decided to transfer its loathing from a race to a sexual minority.
Obama’s generation of black men and women may indeed be the Joshua Generation, seeing the Promised Land, but Obama is not even the Moses, let alone the Joshua, of gay men and women and their struggle. Perhaps we have no right to expect that. Perhaps he has enough on his plate.
But if not this President’s plate, then whose? We gay men and lesbians have stood at the threshold of the Promised Land for generations now. Who knows when we will see it? Perhaps when Barney Frank becomes President?