Donald Trump is indignant that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would dare run for president when he KNOWS Trump is running. According to the former president and big baby, this is a betrayal of epic proportions because Trump endorsed DeSantis during his first gubernatorial run. (Whereas winning the presidency by promising to build a wall, and then reneging, is a trifle, hardly worth mentioning.)
DeSantis, he says, would be “working at a Pizza Hut” if not for Trump’s endorsement. [Counter-argument: DeSantis is a graduate of both Harvard and Yale, and didn’t pay someone to take his SATs for him, as Trump did.]
But since Trump won’t shut up about his splendiferous endorsement of DeSantis, let’s see how valuable it really was.
Answer: It was utterly irrelevant.
Trump endorsed DeSantis on Dec. 22, 2017, shortly before he officially announced his candidacy, tweeting, “Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!”
The response was Earth-shattering!!! Actually, it had absolutely no effect. Not the slightest little bump in the polls. Weeks later — thanks to Trump’s back-breaking work typing out a tweet — DeSantis’ primary opponent, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, led DeSantis 23% to 18%, according to a Florida Chamber of Commerce poll.
Although DeSantis wasn’t shy about touting Trump’s endorsement, by early June 2018, Putnam had a double-digit lead over him. A Fox News poll, for example, showed Putnam ahead 32% to 17%, and an NBC poll had Putnam leading DeSantis 38% to 21%. Not only that, but Putnam had outraised DeSantis $30 million to $10.8 million.
That’s the old Trump magic!
It wasn’t until the first primary debate at the end of June 2018 that DeSantis soared in the polls and never went back down. As Floridapolitics.com reported, numerous surveys showed “a dramatic leap to the top for DeSantis since the two [primary candidates] squared off in the nationally televised debate in Orlando on June 28.”
It’s not that DeSantis is an amazing debater — he’s not — but two months before the election, voters started paying attention.
By the time of the second and final debate on Aug. 8, 2018, DeSantis was leading Putnam by 20 points, and went on to win the primary 57% to 37%. Trump had nothing to do with it: DeSantis was underwater from Trump’s December 2017 endorsement right up until the voters got a look at DeSantis for themselves.
True, Trump reminded voters of his DeSantis endorsement just before that first debate, and there were no polls between Trump’s re-endorsement and the debate a week later, so maybe the second time’s the charm!
Were Florida voters especially enamored of Trump in June 2018? Hardly. A Marist/NBC poll, taken between June 17 and June 22, had Trump down 20 points on the “deserves to be reelected” question.
Remember Alabama? Even in the Trumpiest of Trump states, his endorsed candidates in 2017 lost in both the primary and the general election. This was during Trump’s first year as president, when he was at the height of his powers — before we knew he was going to betray us. (Some of us had an inkling.) Trump’s endorsements did the impossible, producing a Democratic senator from a deep red state.
His endorsement of Herschel Walker in 2022 cost Republicans a Senate seat in Georgia. His endorsement of Doug Mastriano (for claiming the 2020 election was stolen) cost Republicans the entire state of Pennsylvania. Also: Kari Lake in Arizona, Tudor Dixon in Michigan, Don Bolduc in New Hampshire and so on.
How about the race that obsessed Trump more than any other? Far more than a couple of tweets, Trump waged a jihad against Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in 2022, practically turning himself into David Perdue’s campaign manager.
He even used half a million dollars from his PAC to defeat Kemp — marking the first time Trump spent his donors’ money on something other than his own properties and family members.
Result: Kemp slaughtered Perdue in the primary, 74% to 22%, and then increased his margin of victory in the general election from four years earlier.
And never forget that in the weeks before DeSantis’ reelection in 2022, Trump repeatedly attacked him at rallies, calling him the oh-so-witty “Ron DeSanctimonious.” The day before the election, Trump hinted at an imaginary DeSantis scandal, telling The Wall Street Journal, “I will tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering. I know more about him than anybody other than perhaps his wife, who is really running his campaign.”
As we all now know, DeSantis went on to win reelection by 20 points, the largest margin in 40 years, in an otherwise rotten year for Republicans (thanks to Trump).
Moral of the story: A Trump endorsement is electoral poison.
Aside from the insanely narcissistic rank stupidity of Trump thinking he has the right to demand that no other Republican run against him, DeSantis owes him absolutely nothing. Next year, when the “justice-involved” former president is angling for a presidential pardon and decides to endorse DeSantis, the governor should refuse it. That will bring the country together.
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