It might be a little early for DeSantis campaign postmortems, but I’m going to do one anyway. At this point, his chances of a comeback are basically nil.
“But John McCain made a comeback in 2008.” That’s cope. In early August 2007, Rudy Giuliani was polling at between 25 and 33 percent. His closest competitor (the senator who played a district attorney for a few seasons of “Law & Order”) trailed him by between two and eight points. The former New York mayor had peaked at 53 percent in a single February 2007 ABC News/Washington Post poll. Otherwise, he never broke 50. Trump, on the other hand, has been polling consistently in the 50s since March and enjoys a 35-point advantage over DeSantis. There’s no coming back from that. No candidate in the 50-year history of modern primaries has managed it.
Giuliani also started losing steam due to a series of scandals that broke late 2007. Is there any scandal that could derail Trump at this point? They’ve hit the guy with three criminal indictments and it’s only helped him. He really could shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue. Even prison won’t stop him. You’re allowed to run for president from a cell, and if he wins they have to let him out. (RELATED: What Happens If Trump Gets Sent To Prison, Then Wins In 2024?)
So what happened? The DeSantis campaign’s elevator pitch — that he’d be Trump with less baggage and more skill at governing — was a solid one. Trump was inattentive to briefing materials, distracted by petty personal disputes and repeatedly hoodwinked by various “experts.” DeSantis made a name for himself by devouring the data on COVID transmission and telling Dr. Fauci where to stick it.
The Florida governor’s campaign has its issues. The candidate can be socially awkward. The Twitter launch was a mess. His meme-obsessed young staffers accidentally(?) tweeted a Nazi symbol.
But even without any of that, winning would have been nearly impossible. There’s no way past Trump without attacking Trump, and there’s no way to attack Trump without attacking his voters. To them, he’s not just a candidate — he’s their champion. And the more the Biden administration comes after him, the more convinced they become of that.
So far, the rhetoric of Trump’s 2024 campaign hasn’t been nearly as memorable as the endlessly quotable one-liners he seemed to drop every day back in 2016. One line sticks out though: “In reality, they’re not after me. They’re after you. I’m just in the way.”
— Team Trump (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@TeamTrump) August 3, 2023
Sure, plenty of liberal pundits have said they fear DeSantis more than Trump, but is DeSantis drawing the kind of fire the former president is? Not even close. There are two obvious counterarguments here. The first would be that they’re coming after Trump because they know it’ll help him in the primary and they think he’ll be easier for Biden to beat. But so far, DeSantis isn’t performing any better than Trump in general election polling. (RELATED: DeSantis’ Pitch To Donors: I’m The Only GOP Candidate Who Can Beat Biden)
The second would be that Trump deserves it. But to admit that is to let the enemy win.
The main issue of 2024 isn’t Dobbs or inflation or Ukraine. It’s whether any elected government can hope to break the liberal elite’s stranglehold on our institutions (or, in Democrat-speak, “undermine Our Democracy™”). They think they can do whatever they want and crush anyone who opposes them. If Republicans abandon Trump now, it only shows how right they are.
Trump clearly wasn’t able to stop them in his first term, but his supporters firmly believe that second-term Trump will be out for blood. Nobody has more motivation to crush the establishment than he does. If he fails, he goes to jail, probably for the rest of his life. DeSantis has much less skin in the game.
In a recent Substack post, author Rod Dreher quoted an email from a reader who summed up the situation perfectly:
“DeSantis has not made irrevocable commitments that fully alienate the establishment, and therefore the Trumpian base is afraid that once in office he will reveal his true colors and tack back to respectable politics, like every Republican politician in their lifetime before him,” the reader wrote. Trump, on the other hand “is the guy who has walked into the party, punched the host in the face and pissed all over the carpet. There’s no going back for him, and everybody knows it.”
It’s easier to win if you feel like losing isn’t an option. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s success at remaining in power during the darkest days of his country’s civil war is legendary. How’d he pull it off? Easy. He had no other choice. He couldn’t just fly off on a private jet full of cash like Ashraf Ghani, America’s puppet president of Afghanistan. (RELATED: Ex-Afghanistan President Who Fled Says Trump’s Deal With Taliban ‘Erased Us’)
In late 2012, Assad met with Russian diplomats as rebel forces closed in on the capital. “[Assad’s] mood is that he will be killed anyway,” one Russian analyst said after the meeting. “If he will try to go, to leave, to exit, he will be killed by his own people. If he stays, he will be killed by his opponents. He is in a trap … It is about his physical survival.”
Or, to go back much further, consider the biblical story of Absalom. When Absalom launched a coup against his father, King David, things went smoothly at first. He was popular with the common people and quickly drove David out of Jerusalem.
“So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he slept with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.”
2 Samuel 16:22
— Stephen W. Carson (@RadicalLib) February 10, 2020
But Absalom’s supporters weren’t sure they could trust him. A few years earlier, he’d murdered his brother Amnon and fled the country, only to be invited back from exile a few years later by his soft-hearted father. The prince’s co-conspirators were afraid he’d cut a similar deal and leave the rest of them (literally) hanging.
So, his closest advisor offered a solution: Absalom should take all of David’s concubines up to the roof of the palace and bang them in front of the whole city. It was both a grievous personal insult and a death penalty offense under the law of Moses. If David took back the throne, he’d have no choice but to execute Absalom. The rebel prince eventually lost, but he succeeded in rallying his followers.
The Jan. 6 Capitol riot was Trump’s rooftop orgy. It was his point of no return. It doesn’t guarantee that he’ll win, but it gives him an air of credibility — of total commitment to the cause, of knowing what time it is — that DeSantis cannot hope to match.
Grayson Quay is an editor at the Daily Caller.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.