If there is anything on the minds of Democratic politicians and members of the chattering class, it is former President Donald Trump. If there is anything else on their minds, it is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. These two men have emerged as the primary villains of the Democrats’ fantasy fairy story – in which they play the role of the virtuous hero. This has raised a rather interesting question: Of whom should the left be more afraid?
DeSantis vs Trump?
At this point, it seems all but completely certain that Trump will make another bid for the White House. However, with his mounting legal challenges and the FBI’s raid on his Florida home, Mar-a-Lago, there appears to be a chance – ever so slight – that he might not be in a position to make a successful run. If this development plays out, DeSantis would likely be the top contender for the Republican nomination in 2024, and at least some Democrats have expressed concerns about this possibility.
“To me, DeSantis is the scarier prospect. He’s a smarter version of Trump, he’s way more strategic, and he doesn’t have a hundred lawsuits at his feet,” a Democratic strategist told The Hill. “If Trump goes bust, and he very well may, he’s the main guy I’d be watching.” Others have expressed similar sentiments, arguing that national Democrats should be joining Biden in targeting DeSantis.
Fernand Amandi, a Miami-based pollster who worked with Barack Obama’s campaign, said: “What’s inexplicable to me is, why – not just Joe Biden – but the entire Democratic establishment isn’t trying to disqualify him now in the governor’s race,” Fernand Amandi, a Miami-based pollster who worked with Barack Obama’s campaign, said. “He’s getting an absolute free pass. He has no sense of shame … He’s acting like someone who doesn’t feel accountable to anyone.”
For his part, Biden has taken a few shots at the Florida governor. The president made a veiled criticism of DeSantis after the latter helped strip Disney of its special tax status for criticizing the Parental Rights in Education Act, which prohibits teachers from instructing small children on gender identity and sexuality.
“This is not your father’s Republican Party,” Biden said during a fundraising event in April. “It’s not even conservative in a traditional sense of conservatism. It’s mean. It’s ugly. I mean, look at what’s happening now in Florida: Christ, they’re going after Mickey Mouse.”
But these remarks aren’t enough for Democrats, who would like to see more from their commander-in-chief. “They say he should emulate California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who, in a rare move, took the fight to DeSantis by airing an ad on Fox News last month,” according to The Hill.
Another piece of this puzzle is the reality that many Democratic voters are not exactly keen on the idea of Biden seeking re-election. Alex Wyshyvanuk, a data analyst, told the New York Times that he would prefer a younger candidate.
“I need an equivalent of Ron DeSantis, a Democrat, but not a 70- or 80-year-old — a younger person,” he said. “Someone who knows what worked for you in 1980 is not going to work for you in 2022 or 2024.”
What Do the Numbers Say?
Democrats might recognize on their own that DeSantis could be a greater threat than Trump. But the numbers also seem to back up that assertion. A YouGov survey found that if the national General Election were held now, DeSantis would win 36% of “adult citizens,” which is only two points behind Biden. The governor was favored by Independents over Biden at 30% to 24%. Trump trailed the president by three points.
In a hypothetical three-way race in which Trump ran as an Independent against Biden and DeSantis, the former president took third place, with DeSantis leading him by five points.
The three-way scenario is unlikely to materialize, of course, but it does provide yet another reason why Democrats fear the Floridian. Indeed, people on both sides view the Florida governor as a more politically savvy version of Trump, one who would know which battles to choose and which Twitter feuds to avoid. Another checkmark in the DeSantis column is his willingness to go on the offense in the messaging war. He has used the same pugilistic attitude towards the activist media as the former president, and this has helped him win the hearts and minds of much of the conservative base.
But in the end, Democrats have performed so poorly since they took office in 2021 that questions regarding the relative danger to the left posed by DeSantis and Trump might be irrelevant. Soaring inflation, gas prices, economic woes, crime, education, and a slew of other problems persist while President Biden flails in the White House. The bottom line is that Democratic leaders have so thoroughly fouled up their tenure in office that, at this point, Republicans could run a platypus in 2024 and still win.