Because the 2024 presidential election will get underway, Donald Trump is testing out a dangerous technique.
He’s swinging onerous and sometimes at a competitor who hasn’t even gotten within the race but.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has given each indication he’ll seemingly run — internet hosting donor retreats, visiting swing states and early voting states, and dress-rehearsing coverage and messaging concepts in Florida — however he hasn’t introduced. Sources close to him say he would possibly even wait so long as June to launch his marketing campaign.
That hasn’t stopped Trump from making this a two-man race between him and DeSantis. He’s nearly ignored one other competitor, and one who’s truly introduced, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. He’s stated nothing about South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who additionally looks to be running. And he’s taken a few pot shots at his former vp, Mike Pence. However nobody has gotten extra of Trump’s consideration than DeSantis. The truth is, he appears downright obsessed.
As Trump is wont to do, he’s been making an attempt out nicknames for the governor — like Ron “DeSanctimonious,” or “DeSanctus” for brief; “Shutdown Ron,” for implementing COVID-19 restrictions in Florida; and “Meatball Ron,” which Trump, inexplicably, says would possibly simply be “too crude” for his refined sensibilities.
This week he released a video through which he challenged the factor DeSantis is probably going most recognized for and happy with — making Florida nice once more — saying, the Sunshine State the place he’s lengthy had a house “was doing nice lengthy earlier than ‘Ron DeSanctus’ ” turned governor there.
He additionally instructed reporters that he regretted endorsing DeSantis in 2018, saying “Bear in mind this: If it weren’t for me, Ron DeSanctimonious would proper now be working most likely at a legislation agency, or possibly a Pizza Hut, I don’t know.”
And at a speech in Iowa Monday night time, he unleashed his most aggressive assaults but. He accused DeSantis of desirous to “decimate” Social Safety. He known as him a disciple of former Home Speaker Paul Ryan, “a RINO loser who at present is destroying Fox [News],” based on Trump. And he stated, derisively after all, that DeSantis reminded him of frequent Trump critic Sen. Mitt Romney. “So, I don’t assume you’re gonna be doing so nicely right here,” Trump warned.
The give attention to the 44-year-old Florida governor is warranted — Trump and DeSantis are working neck and neck at 40% and 36% respectively amongst GOP voters based on a brand new CNN poll, with each different potential Republircan candidate caught in single digits.
However the massive query is, do Trump’s early assaults damage DeSantis? Or do they really assist him?
On the one hand, Trump’s calculus that DeSantis is his foremost opponent might be right, and trying to neuter him early isn’t a nasty concept. DeSantis will run on his reputation in Florida and his coverage successes there — Trump punching some holes in that’s good.
Accusing DeSantis of disloyalty, specifically, will assist remind Trump supporters that he nonetheless owns them. Trump loyalists are choosing up on the theme, with lawmakers like Reps. Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Inexperienced successfully telling DeSantis to stay put or wait his turn.
And nobody may argue that Trump’s assaults on his personal Republican opponents haven’t been efficient. He knocked out each different competitor, expert campaigners all, in 2016, and spent the subsequent 4 years ridding the GOP of heretics and apostates. In brief, DeSantis needs to be fearful.
However however, all this consideration on DeSantis, earlier than he’s even introduced he’s working, may have the other impact. It may find yourself elevating him. A sensible marketing campaign strategist would possibly recommend to somebody in Trump’s place that he run like an incumbent, ignoring the first and pretending the overall election has already begun. However as an alternative of attacking the sitting president, Joe Biden, Trump’s not solely giving DeSantis free media, however the as-of-yet undeserved gravitas of being a severe challenger. DeSantis isn’t even working but, however he’s obtained Trump, the press and voters performing as if he’s. Discuss an auspicious begin to a presidential marketing campaign.
We’ll have to observe the newest polls out of Iowa, the place Trump simply examined his aggressive DeSantis technique, to see if it earns him a bump. Trump’s assist there has eroded over the previous yr, with the proportion of Iowa Republicans who say they’d “positively” vote for him if he had been the 2024 nominee dropping by greater than 20 factors since June 2021. “There’s nothing locked in about Iowa for Donald Trump,” based on one Iowa pollster.
That’s doubtlessly excellent news for DeSantis, who was in Iowa final week selling his new guide — and avoiding taking over Trump.
In the long run, the Republican main could come right down to a battle of wits between these two heavyweights. Will it’s DeSantis, the savvy politician? Or Trump, the savage campaigner?
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.
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