The Ron DeSantis Campaign Is DeToast

by | Aug 8, 2023 | Opinions & Commentary

Ron DeSantis at a Turning Point USA convention. Image: Gage Skidmore, Openverse

The Ron DeSantis Campaign Is DeToast

by | Aug 8, 2023 | Opinions & Commentary

Ron DeSantis at a Turning Point USA convention. Image: Gage Skidmore, Openverse

The American people have gotten to know Ron DeSantis, and they don't like him at all—for good reason. His campaign is collapsing. And it will long be remembered as a national joke.

Republished with permission from Steve Schmidt,

According to Bloomberg News, this weekend has been another very difficult one for the disintegrating Ron DeSantis campaign. Let’s read from the story by Bloomberg’s Nancy Cook:

Ron DeSantis promised a reset of his presidential campaign. Many of his campaign staffers are still waiting.

Several people believe the Republican candidate’s bid lacks a coherent strategy and message. According to people familiar with the campaign, the operation is disorganized, with different teams pursuing their own agendas, and little communication between groups, said the people familiar, who requested anonymity to discuss the campaign’s inner workings.

There’s a couple of things going on in that paragraph. First, the Ron DeSantis campaign is disintegrating. And the evidence is the leaks.

Nancy Cook’s anonymously sourced story makes clear that the voices from inside the campaign expressing such worry are the very people who are responsible for the campaign reset—the Ron DeSantis staff—but they feel siloed, disconnected and disorganized.

One of the things that happens when a campaign starts to disintegrate is the leaking starts. It marks a collapse of discipline of teamwork. And the Ron DeSantis campaign has reached that pathetic stage. It’s important to remember that Ron DeSantis isn’t running to be mayor of Tallahassee. Ron DeSantis is running to be President of the United States.

He is a micromanaging freak show, to say the least. Ron DeSantis has never managed anything, never run anything besides the state of Florida, which he’s done, well, let’s just say ineffectively for the last five years, despite his 20-point reelection bid.

What Ron DeSantis has done is declare war on the state’s largest employer—Disney—and stoke a jihad against the educational system in Florida. Now, Florida voters may like that a bit, but it’s not effective leadership. This incredible paragraph details what a sorry manager Ron DeSantis is—even posting an official message on X, the platform formerly called Twitter.

His campaign is rife with bureaucracy. According to the people briefed on the communication strategy, the governor and his wife, Casey DeSantis, must personally approve many of the messages, a process that can take two days and could slow their ability to respond to campaign developments. They said that some at the highest rungs of the campaign leadership consider the operation flawed and worry they are watching the Florida governor’s chances of winning the GOP nomination slip away.

Let’s talk about Ron DeSantis and his acumen as a manager. He aspires to be the Commander in Chief of the American military, the head of state of the government of the United States. Yet, he runs an operation where it takes two days—two days—to approve a tweet. And apparently, the only people that Ron DeSantis trust to approve the tweet are him and his wife Casey.

What that reflects is a paranoid style of decision-making. A culture of mistrust. He is someone who is simply not capable of leading and managing a campaign, and being a viable challenger to front-runner Donald Trump. DeSantis has slid in the polls, committed a series of missteps, and alarmed donors following his campaign kickoff with his spending and strategy. The candidate promised to reset, but his own aides are frustrated and disappointed.

A sense of gloom permeates his Tallahassee headquarters, according to people familiar with the operation. Well, you don’t say a sense of glue has descended on the DeSantis campaign. A fog of despair, if you will, hangs over the headquarters. The Fuehrer bunker of the Tallahassee Mussolini. I wonder how the immigrants—the men, the women who were dazed, confused, bewildered and lost in a land where they didn’t speak the language—felt.

They knew no one when Ron DeSantis shipped them off to Martha’s Vineyard last year. The reset hasn’t exactly stopped him from making one unforced error after the other, said Whit Ayres, a GOP pollster who worked on DeSantis’ successful 2018 gubernatorial race. His issue is just he had a hard time dealing with people. Now, before continuing, isn’t it important to be able to deal with people just as a general proposition, a human proposition? Now, if you want to lead the people to be their President, to be the head of state, the Commander in Chief of a system where it is a government of the people, by the people, for the people, you need to like people!

There is pressure to turn around the campaign before the first Republican debate on August 23rd in Milwaukee, or by September, when the governor and his wife think that most Americans will start paying attention to the presidential race. This was stated at a fundraising retreat that DeSantis organized for donors in Park City, Utah. Now, Park City, Utah, is my hometown and the DeSantis campaign, which is broke, decided to host their comeback meeting at the $1,000 a night Stein Eriksen Lodge. What a wise expenditure of the donors money and a perfect setup for Nancy Cook’s next paragraph:

DeSantis fired 1/3 of his campaign staff focused on travel to early voting states and started holding more intimate events and interacting more with mainstream media. But it is not clear to supporters or campaign officials if the reset has been sweeping enough.

I’m going to be the one to break the bad news to you. The reset is not working. And the reset will not work. The gloom and the despair, embrace it, because the sooner you do, the sooner that the DeSantis campaign will be over. That’s a good thing for America. When you’re losing a campaign, the whining and the complaining and the “poor me” always come—and that was before the Republican Party became a great cult of victimization.

Let’s listen to Hal Lambert, a DeSantis donor. He seems particularly delusional. “I think the reset is going great. He is getting out in front of the media a whole lot more and rolling out more policy proposals in the near future. Some campaign officials want the reboot to go further. Donors and allies are urging the governor to stop talking so extensively about his record of Florida and culture war fights and broaden his message to appeal to the concerns of voters in places like Iowa.”

Quite a revelation there. You don’t have to be a political genius to figure it out. If you live, let’s say in Iowa or North Carolina or New Hampshire, you really don’t want to hear somebody giving a speech about Florida because you don’t live there. That’s a big part of Ron DeSantis’ problem because he talks incessantly about things that no one cares about. He’s very strange on top of it. Besides talking about things that they don’t care about, he also has decided to provoke that and antagonize that with a culture war that he’s decided to launch against all of America’s culture. And you know what? No one likes it. Not even the MAGA voters.

Robert Bigelow, the biggest individual donor to the pro-DeSantis Never Back Down super PAC, said Friday that he won’t give any more money to the campaign. He’s given $20 million so far, and unless the governor attracts new major backers, and adopts a more moderate approach he’s done donating. Supporters know the first debate will be a critical moment for DeSantis to introduce himself to Americans who are not familiar with him. Several donors said they are eager to see how he stacks up.

The American people do know Ron DeSantis. They’ve gotten to know him, and they don’t like him at all—for good reason. Ron DeSantis’ campaign is collapsing. It’s all but over. It will long be remembered as a national joke, a punch line about what happens when a strange and paranoid fascist from Florida, with his wife, decides that they alone can run and win a presidential campaign.

The most amazing thing about it is a few years from now, assuming the country’s democracy survives, there will likely be another Ron DeSantis. And they won’t learn a single lesson from Ron DeSantis. That’s the most amazing thing about American politics. It’s the arrogance. The arrogance of people like Ron and Casey DeSantis. Watching them crash and burn is an awful lot of fun. Isn’t it?

Steve Schmidt

Steve Schmidt

Steve Schmidt is a political analyst for MSNBC and NBC News. He served as a political strategist for George W. Bush and the John McCain presidential campaign. Schmidt is a founder of The Lincoln Project, a group founded to campaign against former President Trump. It became the most financially successful Super-PAC in American history, raising almost $100 million to campaign against Trump's failed 2020 re-election bid. He left the group in 2021.

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