Over at the Miami Herald, Alex Roarty, Mary Ellen Klas, Michael Wilner and Max Greenwood underlined what a big strategic shift this was for DeSantis “who for the last five years has both bashed and ignored non-partisan media outlets.”
“Since launching his national book tour in February and announcing his campaign in May, DeSantis has spent time on right-wing podcasts and courted conservative Fox News hosts. Until agreeing to sit down Tuesday with Tapper, he had not granted an extensive interview to any Florida-based or national mainstream news organization,” they wrote.
From where he sits, this wave of negative media coverage no doubt seems deeply unfair. After all, the first nominating contest is still six months away. He and the other candidates only just started the quadrennial marathon of shameless pandering that is the primaries, trooping to state fairs to wolf down the latest food-on-a-stick, nodding along knowingly as farmers explain crop prices and pretending to be overjoyed to shake hands at one more diner. They haven’t even had their first debate.
Yet candidates are regularly culled at this stage of the process by a ruthless news media on the lookout for breakthroughs and flameouts. Most also-rans fall victim to a predictable cycle. Fail to quickly produce excitement among the voters just beginning to tune in, and you can expect to be ignored by reporters. Voters who never see you in the news won’t consider you as a serious option, and you’ll be stuck far back in the polls. Seeing those polls, donors won’t want to waste their money on you. And without donations, you won’t have the funds to air ads and mount a robust campaign. For some candidates, it becomes an endless circle: Because they’re behind, they can’t garner the attention and resources to move up.
DeSantis’ predicament is related, with an additional ingredient: Though we may not be doing it consciously, we in the news media love to build someone up, then tear them down. But if DeSantis thinks he isn’t getting a fair shake, he should remember that he was largely a media creation in the first place.
Remember, long before he officially announced a run for the White House, DeSantis was universally acknowledged as the principal alternative to Donald Trump, the only Republican who had a strong chance to dethrone the former president. Why? There are other big-state Republican governors who would have had just as strong a case to make to their party’s base. Texas’ Greg Abbott, like DeSantis, has been an enthusiastic culture warrior who was easily re-elected in 2022. Georgia’s Brian Kemp has governed from the right without becoming a Trump lickspittle. That’s not to mention the 23 other Republican governors, most of whom you’ve barely heard of.
When pressed, DeSantis said, “When you’re going after somebody on the other side of the political spectrum, if you’re stretching statutes to try to criminalize political disagreements, that is wrong. Now, look, this is all speculation. But I think we’ve gone down the road in this country of trying to criminalize differences in politics, rather than saying, ‘OK, you don’t like somebody? Then defeat them in the election rather than trying to use the justice system.’”
So if you were waiting for the moment for DeSantis to come out swinging at Trump, it never happened. Earlier in the day Tuesday, the most he would say was that Trump should have “come out more forcefully” when his supporters were attacking the Capitol.
But he told Tapper, “I don’t think it serves us good to have a presidential election focused on what happened four years ago in January. And so I want to focus on looking forward. I don’t want to look back. … I hope he doesn’t get charged. I don’t think it’ll be good for the country.”
One of the themes of DeSantis’ campaign, as well as his time as governor in Florida, is fighting against “wokeness.” In a recent campaign speech, he used the word “woke” five times in 20 seconds. He talks about it constantly.
Yet, he told Tapper, “Not everyone really knows what wokeness is. I mean, I’ve defined it, but a lotta people who rail against wokeness can’t even define it.”
Perhaps that is why DeSantis’ campaign is floundering at the moment. One of his chief talking points is something most people can’t even define. Christie also voiced concern about whether DeSantis, if elected, would be willing to uphold the law, particularly regarding Trump, who could soon face his third indictment for his alleged role in trying to subvert the 2020 election.
“Would you trust a President DeSantis to go ahead and enforce the rule of law?” Blitzer asked, after playing a clip from DeSantis’ during which he said he hoped Trump was not charged again.
“Look, based on what he just said there, it gives you concerns, doesn’t it?” Christie said. “I mean, look, no one is above the law, and the fact is that what’s damaging to the country — I think this is where Ron’s getting it wrong — is Donald Trump’s conduct.”
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