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Ron DeSantis

DeSantis thinks 'the libs' are afraid of him. But it's GOP voters who want him to get lost.

DeSantis doesn't need me or any other liberal to submarine his campaign. He's doing a marvelous job of that all on his own.

Rex Huppke

So there is this funny thought rattling around GOP presidential primary candidate Ron DeSantis’ noggin, and the noggins of various right-wing pundit types, that “the left” – a blanket term for all liberals and members of the non-Fox-News media – has it out for the Florida governor.

The fear from "the left", apparently, is that DeSantis would be a stronger candidate against President Joe Biden than former President Donald Trump, so liberals like me are conspiratorially bending over backward to submarine DeSantis’ campaign.

There’s not enough space in this column for me to write the necessary number of HAHAHAAAs to respond to that idea, so I’ll share three quick thoughts:

  1. DeSantis doesn’t need me or any other liberal to submarine his campaign. He’s doing a marvelous job of that all on his own.
  2. Based on current polling, it's Republicans who want nothing to do with him. The most recent polling average from Five Thirty Eight shows only about 14% of GOP voters want DeSantis as their presidential candidate.
  3. As far as I’m concerned, I’d take Biden vs. DeSantis over Biden vs. Trump any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

DeSantis is running one of the worst presidential campaigns in recent memory

Let’s start with DeSantis’ “they’re all out to get me” conspiracy.

In a July interview on Fox News, DeSantis said of “the corporate press”: “They don't want somebody like me to come in and dismantle the administrative state. Both from an electoral perspective and a substantive perspective they view me as the most significant threat to their agenda.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis campaigns for president on July 15, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn.

That’s very stupid, of course. It presupposes that all journalists get together for weekly “Liberal Agenda Meetings” (we don’t, we hate meetings). And it overlooks the fact that the only thing DeSantis poses a “significant threat” to right now are the claims past GOP presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Scott Walker have to the title of “Most Disastrous Presidential Campaign.”

Believing the DOJ is angling to keep DeSantis off the ballot is upper-level loopy

Conservative columnist Rich Lowry suggested recently in the New York Post that the federal indictments against Trump are part of some nefarious game of three-dimensional chess going on at the Department of Justice, which I guess in this scenario is packed with raging liberal prosecutors. The gist is that indicting Trump helps the former president and makes it harder for DeSantis to get attention:

“Consider this thought experiment: If the Justice Department and the other prosecutors knew that the indictments guaranteed a Ron DeSantis or Tim Scott nomination, would they still go through with them?”

To which I respond: Yes! Because unless you spend all your time snorkeling the murky fever swamps of right-wing paranoia, you understand that the Justice Department is going to prosecute whoever it needs to prosecute whenever it has the evidence to prosecute them. Life isn’t a grand, multi-agency conspiracy. It’s actually quite boring.

Defrauding the US?Trump's third indictment may be his best one yet.

If liberals are afraid of anyone beating Joe Biden, it ain't Ron DeSantis

So DeSantis and Co. believe some grand liberal cabal is terrified of the Florida governor because, as he said in his Fox News interview, “they know that I would beat Biden and beat him soundly.”

For starters, I don’t know with any certainty who can or can’t beat Biden. We’ve got a long way to go before the 2024 election.

August 3, 2023: Former President Donald Trump arrives to board his plane at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airpor in Arlington, Va., after facing a judge on federal conspiracy charges that allege he conspired to subvert the 2020 election.

I also don’t particularly care who can or can’t beat Biden, because my job, contrary to DeSantis’ belief, is not to help any Democratic candidate or destroy any Republican candidate. My job is to share my opinion on the things I see happening in the world, and if that opinion is sometimes “Ron DeSantis is doing very bad and unlikable things,” then it is what it is.

That said, if I was worrying about which GOP presidential primary candidate poses the biggest threat to President Biden’s reelection, I assure you the candidate I’d be focusing on would not be Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis has the retail political skills of an alien trying to mimic human behavior

As a native of Florida, I’ve paid attention to DeSantis longer than most, and since the earliest mention of his presidential aspirations, I thought: “Nope. This guy is unlikable, un-engaging and painfully awkward. You put him on a national stage, regardless of what conservatives think about his draconian right-wing policies in Florida, and he will turn people off.”

That has proven accurate, and it’s part of why he’s getting his keister handed to him in the primary by a man who can’t stop losing elections or getting indicted.

A six-week abortion ban and fights over slavery? That spells trouble

The other part, beyond the empty space where DeSantis’ personality should reside, is that much of what he has done in Florida runs afoul of the way most Americans, and particularly younger voters, view the world.

The six-week abortion ban he signed into law is broadly unpopular and will box him in badly on the wrong side of an issue that drives voters to the polls.

Hundreds participate in the National Action Network demonstration in response to Gov. Ron DeSantis' rejection of a high school African American history course, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, in Tallahassee, Fla.

He’s on the record previously supporting cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and while he has tried to backpedal, it leaves him open to heavy attacks on two federal programs voters covet.

His attacks on diversity in education had him recently defending a curriculum requiring teachers to note that some slaves “developed skills” that could be used for “personal benefit,” outraging people on both sides of the aisle.

DeSantis seems to think he can out-cruel Donald Trump

Just last week, the College Board said Florida laws banning topics related to gender and sexuality have “effectively banned AP Psychology” classes in the state, upending the schedules of thousands of students just as classes are about to start. 

DeSantis capped off last week by infuriating the two largest federal worker unions by saying at a campaign event: “On bureaucracy, you know, we’re going to have all these deep state people, you know, we’re going to start slitting throats on Day One and be ready to go.” -

American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley responded in a statement, saying “violent anti-government rhetoric from politicians has deadly consequences. Any candidate who positions themselves within that shameful tradition has no place in public office.”

Desperate DeSantis:Flailing DeSantis campaign leans into anti-LGBTQ ad, tries to out-cruel Trump

Trump has a stranglehold on the GOP base. DeSantis very much does not

Trump, for all his upcoming court dates and failures and general horribleness, has a following so loyal his presidential primary numbers INCREASED the first two times he was indicted. He’s a bucket of Kool-Aid shy of a cult leader.

Supporters of Former President Donald Trump are seen near the courthouse ahead of his arraignment on four charges related to the 2020 election.

DeSantis, on the other hand, is a stumbling mess who’s about as affable as an aggrieved porcupine, and the policies he has embraced – along with his comical repetition of the word “WOKE!” – are things that anger liberal and many independent voters.

So if you think I, as a devious liberal fellow, fear DeSantis becoming the GOP presidential nominee and am thus conspiring to bring him down, you need to lay off the legal marijuana (thanks, Democrats!) and take a breath.

Not everything is a conspiracy.

Sometimes politicians are ridiculed simply because they stink.

USA TODAY Opinion columnist Rex Huppke.

Follow USA TODAY columnist Rex Huppke on Twitter @RexHuppke and Facebook

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