Thankfully, most things in life offer the opportunity to learn something, whether about success or failure. Unfortunately for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, his latest teachable moment just might have cost him the White House.
Now, to be clear, DeSantis was still quite a long way off from winning either the Republican nomination or the presidency prior to an interview that took place on Friday. After all, his biggest challenger, former president Donald Trump, leads pretty much every national poll by as much as 40 or even 50 percentage points at the moment.
But during that interview, he may have alienated even more voters and those he can’t afford to lose.
On the day in question, DeSantis sat down with Will Witt of The Florida Standard, a conservative news outlet, to discuss the ongoing 2024 presidential campaign. Naturally, the rivalry between Trump and DeSantis was brought up.
Witt pointed out that, as a career politician, some, including a majority of Trump supporters, see DeSantis as part of the establishment Republican. Therefore, part of the problem and “swamp” Trump has been so adamant about draining.
Of course, DeSantis didn’t like that association, calling it “totally fabricated.” He then went on to defend himself, explaining that he’s been “fighting the Republican Establishment my whole career, including as a founding member of the Freedom Caucus.”
But then he began to attack the voters a bit – or at least that’s what some could interpret his comments as.
According to DeSantis, he doesn’t actually “think they (voters) think it.” Instead, he implied that they were just following along with whatever Trump was saying about him.
“I think that we have a strand in our party that views supporting Trump as whether you are a RINO or not, and so you could be the most conservative person since sliced bread, (but) unless you’re kissing his rear end they will somehow call you a RINO.”
Yeah, I can imagine a few voters taking offense to that. But that was not the end of it.
The next bit began well enough, allowing DeSantis to make up a little ground.
Basically, he floated the possible problem that to some, it doesn’t really matter what your values, standards, or even record says about yourself. Instead, all that matters is who you are backing, namely Trump or not. So technically, even the most “incredibly liberal, left-wing records” could be labeled as good conservatives if they say they support Trump.
As DeSantis says, that line of thinking is dangerous, as “a movement can’t be about the personality of one individual.”
To be sure, he does make a good point.
However, he pretty much ruins it all by what he said next, which was that we (the voters) can’t just be “listless vessels that (are) just supposed to follow, you know, whatever happens to come down the pike on Truth Social every morning.”
So first, he says voters aren’t actually thinking, and now he’s calling them “listless vessels.”
Again, this is bound to not go over so well with a number of individuals, including some of his own supporters.
Now, to be clear, there is an argument here that DeSantis isn’t completely wrong in his thinking or the larger point to be made here: that conservative principles have to rule the day, not dependence on one candidate or another.
However, if that’s the interpretation we want to go with, it’s clear the Florida lawmaker poorly executed his point. Even DeSantis supporter Tomi Lahren says it “was not a good comment to make.”
Many, in fact, are comparing it to the infamous phrasing failed 2016 presidential candidate and sore loser Hillary Clinton used when referring to MAGA voters as a “basket of deplorables.” And as we all know, that line might as well have sealed Clinton’s fate.
DeSantis may have just made a very unfortunate and similar mistake.