Ron DeSantis had a major gift coming into the Republican presidential primary: GOP voters already know who he is and that he’s on their side. So it would be truly great if he never tried introducing himself to them between now and November 2024 ever again.
The Florida governor launched his campaign for president Wednesday with an online video, plus back-to-back interviews, first on a Twitter audio stream with Elon Musk and then on Fox News with former GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy. There were 30 minutes worth of technical glitches on Twitter, and DeSantis made no news on Fox. The people he was speaking with already agree with him on everything that matters. Whatever.
This is precisely what Republican voters don’t need from DeSantis, the most consequential Republican governor in the country, the man who made his name bypassing all conventional wisdom in Washington and delighting new fans outside his state along the way.
It’s exceedingly rare for a state-level, non-celebrity figure to secure a national profile with household name recognition well ahead of launching a presidential campaign. DeSantis has one, thanks to years of highly critical and highly stupid articles from The New York Times, as well as countless, hysterical segments on MSNBC and CNN. They go all the way back to 2020 when the national media were going through fits of rage over DeSantis reopening public schools and businesses that were ordered to be closed during Covid.
Despite the breathless, maniacal attacks from the media that he was “putting lives at risk,” DeSantis marched forward, proving that “The Science” was on his side, not Washington’s. And then he followed up by showing he was willing to punish corporations that meddled in politics. Then he stared down the woke mob by freeing public school students of critical race theory and radical gender ideology.
Floridians thanked him for it by reelecting him last year to a second term in a blowout anyone would envy. Outsiders watched with intrigue and admiration.
That story is well established, and Republicans looking for their next president don’t need to hear it again. But that’s what DeSantis did on his Twitter chat and in his Fox interview. He spoke in depth about his philosophy on government and even — gag! — made references to that corny Ben Franklin quote about “a republic, if you can keep it.”
His campaign consultants apparently told him he needed to “introduce himself,” unaware that Republican voters already know who he is. They don’t need an introduction. They need him to prove he can bring the same energy and savvy he displayed in Florida to the U.S. capital. This is a place where, if you’re a formidable Republican, the No. 1 enemy isn’t the Democrat Party — it’s the corporate media. It’s CNN, MSNBC, CBS, and ABC. It’s The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press. They represent the interests of everything DeSantis backers hate, and they’re on the frontline. That’s whom he needs to confront first and every time thereafter.
Republican voters have seen him do it in Florida. DeSantis is at his best when he’s belittling and humbling dishonest journalists attempting to take him down. No one has a mastery of information like he does. He will have to use that skill to his advantage.
Trump did it in his live “town hall” interview with CNN earlier this month. DeSantis has to prove he can do the same.