Thursday evening’s indictment of former President Donald Trump was met with a vitriolic indignation from true believers, but the usual cursory statements from GOP rank-in-file officeholders. Most interesting was the two-fold approach of Governor DeSantis.
To be honest, this is the first thing DeSantis has played smartly in a month- he’s proven not ready for prime time when events move quickly, but this, something he could plan for, he handled sneakingly well.
Here’s my sense on the race as it stands –
The race either is unchanged by indictment meaning things flow normally (which led to a Trump v DeSantis contest) or the race becomes frozen (which leads to a Trump v DeSantis contest). I do not see a scenario any longer due to this indictment where a third more “normal” GOPer emerges, be it someone concerned about foreign policy and the pro-Russian tilt of the current GOP like Nikki Haley or Mike Pompeo, or a traditional religious conservative like Mike Pence or a Bush-like GOPer in Chris Sununu.
The prospect of a volatile and unstable race with various flavors of the month emerging as we saw with the Dems in 2019-20 and GOPers in 2011-12 is now out of the question. The race either proceeds normally or is frozen. Either scenario is good for DeSantis.
The new landscape is this – Trump MAGA die-hards aren’t going to flip to DeSantis or anyone else and are now especially dug in after the indictment. Additionally, DeSantis is now the ONLY option for those wanting to move past Trump in the GOP, as with a frozen race or one that lacks volatility, it’s too late for a third option to emerge. The “Never Trumpers,” who would not support DeSantis either, and see him as a mesyautocrat obsessed with cultural issues have largely exited the GOP. These Never Trumpers by and large support Biden. So what remains of the conservative class, in the GOP, has been softened and made a deal with the devil in Trump. But those same folks, obsessed with electoral politics and winning now want to move on while retaining the fire-breathing activists of the MAGA era. For them, DeSantis is the only option remaining on the board.
It’s now Trump v DeSantis, for the GOP nomination and while I think the indictment help Trump in the short-term, it may not long term. This means the New York DA the Governor attacked so unmercifully (and cynically) in his tweet has handed DeSantis a lifeline.
My view of the national electorate is that the GOP has a built-in advantage as long as the Democrats obsess over issues of culture and race, and de-emphasize economics so despite the poor last month, DeSantis remains a fairly good bet to be moving into the White House in January 2025. President Biden remains the strongest potential Democrat and probably a slight favorite if he’s renominated. Otherwise, the Democrats are underdogs in my opinion. So DeSantis isn’t dead quite yet. He’s very much still on the board and fighting.
The main issue that has been brewing for in the US for the past 6 years is that increasingly red state voters want to be able to remove blue state legislatures and governors that have been duly elected. No one including DeSantis comes out and says this explicitly but it is increasingly obvious to me at least that this is now the primary agenda of the GOP. The problem is that it is one thing for DeSantis to remove local officials in Florida he doesn’t like it is another thing to try to remove the entire state govt of California for example. In fact, doing so in my opinion would be tantamount to Civil War.
In some sense it is impossible for the national Democratic party to moderate or compromise on policies of race and culture because these policies are under the jurisdiction of state govts in blue America that have been elected by overwhelmingly majorities. What good what it be for Biden to attack Gavin Newsom for being too woke? Newsom won re-election by over 30 percent. In fact, even the usual suspect like Ruy Teixeira refuse to explicitly call for Biden to call out someone like Gavin Newsom or Maura Healey by name instead they make vague statements that Biden needs to be tougher against the cultural left.