It’s not an accident that corporate media are trying to pit former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis against each other. Among Republicans, the former president and current governor of Florida are popular for their policies and willingness to fight the media. That means they’re a threat to the establishment.
But as clever as the media figures running the operation apparently thought they were, neither of the top Republicans took the bait, understanding that it only serves their political opponents’ interest to have them squabbling.
Still, it was interesting to see it go down. When Trump made an off-hand remark about politicians who wouldn’t say whether they got the booster being “gutless,” the media alleged, without substantiation, that he was going to war against DeSantis.
Then, in a fun and rowdy interview on the Ruthless Podcast, DeSantis was asked an extremely loaded question.
“One thing I have to bring up in terms of national politics … [C]urrently you’re leading pretty much every poll for the Republican nomination for president. I’m just very interested in hearing your thoughts on that,” one of the hosts asked the governor.
That’s not just not true, it’s wildly untrue. For example, here’s one poll from last month that showed Trump absolutely dominating a poll of Republican voters.
Unpopular with the beltway establishment, the former president remains very popular with Republican voters. Now, if Republicans are asked who they would pick if Trump chose not to run, it is true that DeSantis does well. But the original question was preposterous.
DeSantis responded by saying he is running for re-election as governor of Florida this year, and that he just does his job and tries to get things done proactively and not just reactively. The Ruthless podcasters pressed a bit more, alleging the media are “trying to drive a wedge between you and one of your constituents here in Florida, former President Trump. Is there any sort of animosity? What’s that relationship like? Every article they’re trying to push these days is trying to cause trouble. I want to know what that dynamic is like.”
DeSantis was firm. “This is what the media does and you can not fall for the bait. You know what they’re trying to do. So don’t take it.” He added that Republicans needed to stay united for a big election later this year, and needed to stay focused on not just fighting but beating the left. “We need everyone on board. Not just Republicans but independents,” he said, noting that even Democrats are looking at Biden and saying this is not what they want. “We have a chance to broaden our coalition.”
Despite these very clear remarks, the media immediately tried to suggest he was warring with Trump. Later in the interview, he said that he wished he’d fought lockdowns harder earlier on — a sentiment he has expressed repeatedly at least since last April. This time, though, the media tried to spin the sentiment as a sneaky counter-attack on Trump.
That was enough direction for Allahpundit — one of Hot Air’s NeverTrump bloggers — to write a rambling piece of fan fiction about the supposed feud between the two politicians, although he did cheekily wonder if they were “coordinating this entire feud behind the scenes in order to give Trump a pretext to sound more reasonable about COVID.” For this, uh, brilliant analysis, the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman literally said, “If you’re not reading @allahpundit, you’re missing some of the smartest stuff out there these days.”
That allegedly brilliant pundit wrote, “The angry Trump statement responding to this should be an all-timer.”
Instead, the Trump team let it be known that they assumed the entire media operation to drive a wedge between the two men was planted by Mitch McConnell, who is extremely close to the Ruthless podcasters.
Sen. Lindsay Graham warned McConnell recently that he needs to make up with Trump, the leader of the Republican Party, if he wants to become majority leader again:
‘If you want to be a Republican leader in the House or the Senate, you have to have a working relationship with Donald Trump,’ Graham, of South Carolina, told Fox News on Wednesday night…
‘He’s the most consequential Republican since Ronald Reagan,’ Graham said. ‘It is his nomination if he wants it, and I think he’ll get re-elected in 2024.
‘I like Senator McConnell, he worked well with President Trump to get a bunch of judges including three supreme court justices on the bench, they got the tax cuts passed working together.
‘But here’s the question: can Senator McConnell effectively work with the leader the Republican party, Donald Trump?
‘I’m not gonna vote for anybody that can’t have a working relationship with President Trump, to be a team to come up with an America First agenda, to show the difference between us and liberal Democrats, to prosecute the case for Trump policies … because if you can’t do that, you will fail. I will tell you that.’
It’s fair to say that as successful as Trump was in transforming some of the party’s policies and approaches, the Republican establishment views his presidency as a mere interruption of their control of the party. They don’t particularly like his focus on working-class concerns and away from interventionist foreign policy.
They didn’t disappear, and they are lying in wait to resume the place at the table they believe they’re entitled to. To that end, the continued success of conservative populism is viewed as a threat. They know voters love Trump and DeSantis, so they are hoping to divide one or both men from the Republican electorate.
Whether it comes from the media or establishment figures, a Trump-DeSantis fight at this juncture serves the political enemies of conservative voters. They should heed DeSantis’s encouragement to focus on the work needed to secure not just electoral wins in November. If Republican voters want more politicians like Trump and DeSantis, and they clearly do, they should make sure to nominate them in key primaries before the November election.