After the 2022 midterm elections, the broad consensus among Republicans and the conservative media was that Donald Trump was finished and Ron DeSantis was the future of the GOP. Fast-forward approximately six months later, though, and the two men—whose respective ascensions to the White House in 2024 would be equally bad for humanity!—appear to have had a complete role reversal, as demonstrated by a recent poll putting DeSantis behind the former guy by a whopping 36 points. How to account for it all? At the moment, the Florida governor’s woes seem to stem from a variety of factors including that:
– He hasn’t actually yet announced that he is running for president, which, according to some of his allies, has led to “the creeping national narrative that former President Donald Trump is the overwhelming front-runner for the 2024 GOP nomination”;
– He hasn’t really responded to Trump‘s near daily barrage of attacks, which have seen the ex-president hammer him on his record on Medicare and Social Security; suggest he had inappropriate relationships with high school girls while working as a teacher; claim that DeSantis cried while begging him for a gubernatorial endorsement in 2018; and insist that he would be working at a Pizza Hut if it wasn’t for the former president;
– He refuses to give up his extremely stupid fight with Walt Disney, which resulted in Mouse-town suing him last month;
– He signed a hugely restrictive six-week abortion ban that has reportedly even given GOP mega-donor Ken Griffin pause;
– He’s obsessed with attacking the LGBTQ+ community;
– He’s literally ruined people’s lives for political purposes;
– No one believes him when he says he’s never eaten pudding using three fingers as a spoon;
– He’s just…kind of an asshole?
Now, many people may reasonably respond to that last point by noting that Trump is an infamous a-hole, and that it doesn’t really make sense that DeSantis would lose ground to him by being a jerk. And we agree, it doesn’t! And yet, for some reason, people think the Florida governor is an even bigger prick. “If you’re going to go into politics, kind of a fundamental skill that you should have is likability. I don’t think [he] has that,” former GOP representative David Trott told Politico last month. “He never developed any relationships with other members that I know of. You’d never see him talking on the floor with other people or palling around. He’s just a very arrogant guy, very focused on Ron DeSantis…. I think he’s an asshole. I don’t think he cares about people.”
Incidentally, people who seemingly know and maybe even like the Florida governor are also aware that he comes off as a jerk. In a 2018 video obtained and published by ABC News on Sunday, DeSantis is seen doing debate prep for the gubernatorial election, while an adviser off camera tells him he’s got to remember to try to convince people he’s a nice guy. “When you walk up there, you have a pad, you have to write in all caps at the top of the pad: ‘LIKABLE,’” the person instructs him.
In addition to signing monstrous bills into law and punishing people simply for disagreeing with him, there are a large number of stories about DeSantis being an awful person one-on-one. As a former gubernatorial aide told Gabriel Sherman last year: “When you work for Ron, he makes you feel like you’re just lucky to be there.” Said a former congressional staffer: “I once had to drive him to the airport. We got stuck in traffic for an hour, and he didn’t say a word.” In 2021, Politico reported that DeSantis had gotten someone with cancer fired the first week back after they returned to work from surgery, and that former staffers had formed a “support group” to “trade war stories about their hardship working for the governor.” As a former college teammate told The New Yorker: “Ron is the most selfish person I have ever interacted with. He has always loved embarrassing and humiliating people. I’m speaking for others—he was the biggest dick we knew.”
Meanwhile, according to a new report from Politico, the governor can’t even count on the support of Wall Street, which has historically embraced jerks:
DeSantis had been seen as the top pick to lock down the support of financial titans who have already pumped millions into his state campaigns. But as he stumbles through gaffes over everything from his personal demeanor and stance on Ukraine to his snacking habits, Wall Street donors are keeping the door open to his competitors, according to more than a dozen bankers, attorneys, and political consultants interviewed for this story.
Where Wall Street puts its money matters because financial industry executives are among the biggest donors in presidential elections. And while bankers and asset managers generally favor lower taxes and lighter-touch regulation, they also value stability and experience—and they spread their money around to candidates of both parties, meaning they’re very much in play in each cycle. On paper, that should give DeSantis an advantage. People close to Wall Street donors said his national profile and powerhouse fundraising operation that has included support from hedge fund titans like Ken Griffin and Jeff Yass had positioned him as most able to survive a primary with former President Donald Trump…. But many now say he no longer seems so formidable—at least on Wall Street.
We’d say it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, but apparently, it could have!