There is only one Donald Trump, thunders the voice-of-God narrator, as one accomplishment after another of the 45th president drifts across the screen, juxtaposed with dark images of establishment elites dedicated to engineering his demise. This highly effective 60-second ad released as the 2024 presidential campaign kicks into high gear sounds like ordinary Trump fare – except for one glaring exception. Most prominent among the swamp dwellers depicted from beginning to end is none other than his acolyte-turned-rival Ron DeSantis – pictured sitting right next to Joe Biden! It is at once hilarious and effective as a hot knife through butter.
Having already released an ad calling DeSantis disloyal for daring to run for president after Trump’s endorsement undoubtedly changed the face of the 2018 Florida gubernatorial race in DeSantis’s favor, he has now turned the heat up a notch with this latest ad. It features clips from the Florida governor’s own ad from his 2018 gubernatorial campaign, teaching his young son how to say Make America Great Again and build a toy wall. Do you think DeSantis now regrets tying himself so closely to Trump? One way or another, the message is crystal clear: Why accept a half-baked imitation when the real thing is present, accounted for, and available? And while many a conservative has said, in effect, that President Trump scored an A for policy, but an F for personality, the ad capitalizes on the bright side of the most common split-screen view of Trump, magnifying a litany of his policy successes while highlighting his undeniable strength to offset the sharp edges of his temperament.
Can Trump Restrain Himself?
So many have questioned plaintively why Trump refuses to tamp down his insult-driven disposition for the sake of his laudable agenda and record addressing the ever-growing and long-ignored schism between the DC power elite and everyday Americans. But those who plead for him to restrain himself and stop punching down fail to accept that his policies and personality have repeatedly proven to be inseparable. At 76 years old, expecting him to change is a fool’s errand. But promoting the flip side of the character coin, his personal strength and continued mental acuity, creates exactly the type of striking contrast to the enfeebled Joe Biden that he will ultimately need to exploit to maximum effect if he expects to reclaim his seat in the Oval Office.
Trump’s legacy – and self-image – is very much on the line in what will presumably be his final run for the ultimate prize. He has tasted power and wielded it forcefully and fearlessly. But he has first and foremost presented himself as a winner above all else. And so his enemies have enjoyed pointing repeatedly to what they term a three-election losing streak, stretching back to 2018, with two disappointing midterms sandwiched around the bitter outcome of 2020. If Trump succeeds in regaining the presidency, that streak will fade into the background. But if he loses, he is in danger of being viewed as a one-trick pony, a black swan who could only beat a single, vastly overrated opponent, and incapable of sustaining power, even as he effectuated radical change in the direction of a major political party – and the country.
At the same time, if you are Ron DeSantis, what do you do when your front-running opponent so effectively depicts you, even disingenuously, as a neoconservative imposter in league with the Swamp-dwelling uni-party establishment? DeSantis has mostly been brushing off Trump’s relentless mockery. But having now officially jumped into the deep end of the pool, the Florida governor, who promotes his own image as a winner, will need to do what no Republican has yet been able to do with Trump. Already lengths behind out of the starting gate, he must fight fire with fire and survive, in order to ultimately thrive. He began that process one day after his official announcement. Trump “is a different guy today than when he was running in 2015 and 2016,” DeSantis said in an interview on a Tennessee radio show Friday, “I don’t know what happened to Donald Trump.” And then he went for the jugular, saying Trump’s Covid-19 policies “destroyed millions of people’s lives.” Indeed, DeSantis has evidently made the decision to go on offense, realizing he is left with little choice, lest his growing list of enemies stick him with a label which both he and Trump will do almost anything to avoid: loser.
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