Editor’s note: Big Tent Ideas always aims to provide balancing perspectives on the hottest issues of the day. Below is a column from former State Department official Christian Whiton arguing that Ron DeSantis will defeat former President Donald Trump in the presidential primaries. You can find a counterpoint here, where Project 21 member and political commentator Rasheed Walters argues that DeSantis will lose the GOP primary if he challenges the man who boosted his political career.
You have to hand it to Donald Trump: the man isn’t a quitter. From defying advice as a young man to stay out of cutthroat Manhattan real estate to ignoring nearly every expert predicting “Donald Trump will not be the next president” at some point in the 2016 cycle, Trump doesn’t give up easily. He loses some fights and he compromises on others, but surrender is alien to the man.
That fighting spirit brought him improbably to the pinnacle of power in 2016 and created a New Right in American politics whose early chapters are only just being written as it reshapes our country. But it also is leading him into a presidential race in which he may face humiliation at the hands of Republican voters who once revered him, or barring that, loss at the hands of an easily beatable Joe Biden or other Democrat.
To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, the time has come to pass the torch to a new generation. Specifically, it’s past time for the Baby Boomers who have run the country since Bill Clinton was elected in 1992 to give way to Generation X, which hopefully can deploy some of its trademark detachment and nonchalance to governing with less hysteria.
It’s not just an age thing. While Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who leads many early polls for the Republican nomination for president, is a 44-year-old breath of fresh air, his primary appeal is based on accomplishment. First, he has accelerated Florida’s transition into the state where people and businesses want to be amid an exodus from Democrat-run states. Second, he is a winner with a demonstrated record of bringing new voters in to the Republican Party. This last feat was made quite clear in elections last November in which DeSantis creamed his opposition and won Democratic strongholds like Miami. This contrasted with Trump, whom many blamed for Republicans’ mediocre performance elsewhere, including his choice of poor candidates in Georgia and Pennsylvania that left Democrats in control of the Senate.
That’s why it’s odd that those who want Trump back as the Republican candidate in 2024 argue that Trump is more electable than DeSantis. The opposite is almost certainly true. In 2016, Trump won independent voters by four percent, white women by nine percent, and suburban voters by two percent. This coalition has turned away from Trump and isn’t coming back. Furthermore, Trump’s ability to attract blue-collar workers in 2016 will be hard to replicate in 2024 if unemployment remains low. (RELATED: WHITON: Xi Jinping’s Rise Could Be The Beginning Of The End For Communist China)
DeSantis wins by delivering on economics but not shying from cultural issues where Republicans have an advantage. He wasn’t afraid to take on Disney for its woke advocacy in his state. He just signed a law preventing financial services companies in Florida from discriminating based on lefty “environmental, social, and governance” fads. He has acted against critical race theory in schools and suspended school boards and prosecutors who thought they could ignore state laws.
More and more voters are seeing that DeSantis has the same willingness as Trump to fight without apology and reject the rules and narrative of debate established by the Left and its media allies. However, he lacks the baggage of Trump, especially Trump’s lack of discipline and inability to translate sentiment and pronouncements into actual government policy and law.
The other argument of those who want Trump back in 2024 is that DeSantis is ungrateful to challenge Trump since Trump supported DeSantis in his tight race for governor in 2018. By extension, this argument holds that DeSantis should stand aside, likely allowing Trump to lose to Biden or another Democrat in 2024, and then reemerge in 2028, two years after leaving the governor’s office, to try to mount a comeback to the level of attention and popularity he enjoys today. Do we really want a Republican nominee or president who is meek and diffident enough to accept this reasoning? Or do we want one with a sense of timing and pride in his accomplishments to know that now is the time to go for the kill and take back the White House.
Christian Whiton was a State Department senior advisor during the George W. Bush and Donald Trump administrations. He is a senior fellow at the Center for the National Interest.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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