I wanted to share TPM Reader JL’s note because it reveals a key blindspot. I think it’s mine. But I’m actually not sure whether it’s mine or JL’s. In any case, the point is that Ron DeSantis’s campaign makes a lot more sense if you assume Donald Trump either wasn’t going to run in 2024 or was going to mount what amounts to a placeholder campaign to help as part of his legal strategy.
As painful as it is to apply that expression to Ron DeSantis, I do think your recent post omitted some important context.
Yes, in retrospect, DeSantis’s strategy looks foolish. But, if you go back a ways—last summer I guess—it wasn’t even clear Trump was running. Or if he was running that it would be anything more than a legal strategy. And then, think back to the announcement. Think about the playing cards. When Trump first announced, he seemed totally spent—a mere shadow of his former self. Yeah if the real Trump was available, being the younger more energetic Trump was a losing strategy, but if he was obviously yesterday’s news, not such a bad strategy at all.
Of course, it turns out Trump is serious as hell about the campaign—even to the point of being relatively disciplined. He’s actually assembled a campaign team that seems remarkably functional and much savvier than the one that got him elected in 2016 in spite of being mediocre at best (except for Kellyanne Conway’s preternatural ability to put lipstick on the Trump pig.)
Ironically, the thing that seems to have gotten Trump juiced was the opportunity to slice and dice DeSantis. Was all of this foreseeable? That Trump would get his mojo back? I don’t think so. DeSantis had a plausible strategy but isn’t a gifted enough politician to have pivoted when its assumptions turned out to be false.
As in so many other ways, Trump is like a shark. He either keeps moving forward or he dies. He can’t not run.