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A landslide eluded Republicans nationally on election night, although they still appeared able to flip control of the House of Representative, ending what was left of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. However, control of the Senate may fall to a runoff election in Georgia on Dec. 6. Recriminations for the lackluster outcome will begin immediately, but won’t apply to the brightest point on the map for Republicans: Florida.
Donald Trump didn’t even wait for tonight’s outcome to signal he will run for president again by criticizing Republican star Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida and happy warrior who just annihilated his Democrat opponent by nearly 20 points to win reelection. DeSantis even carried liberal bastions like Miami’s Dade County, indicating support from Republicans, independents and a good number of Democrats. (RELATED: REED: A Red Wave Didn’t Materialize On Election Night — But There’s A Glimmer Of Hope)
On Saturday, Trump labeled the governor “Ron De-Sanctimonious” in a weak and tired example of the name-calling that a younger Trump once used successfully to demonstrate that establishment emperors had no clothes.
It won’t work on DeSantis.
On Monday, the scared former president dug deeper, duplicitously stating:
“I think if [DeSantis] runs, he could hurt himself very badly. I really believe he could hurt himself badly. I think he would be making a mistake, I think the base would not like it — I don’t think it would be good for the party.”
As if Trump cares about the party from which he withheld $100 million he grifted from the public supposedly to help Republicans win. Trump clearly fears DeSantis, but should think hard about further fact-free criticism: in attempting to smear a hero of the New Right with a real record like DeSantis, Trump could face humiliation even worse than when he vacated the White House to dotard Joe Biden, ushering in two years of radical progressive rule of Washington.
Trump’s record is still more or less intact. He took a losing Republican Party that was an accomplice in the export of manufacturing to China and enthralled by an unrequited romance with Big Tech and Wall Street and made it into a winning blue-collar party that appeals to minorities and former Democrats. He restored the economy after a decade of stagnation, cut taxes, slapped tariffs on China, beat ISIS, kept us out of other wars, achieved peace between Israel and Arabs, and taught Republicans how to fight, especially by not allowing the propaganda media to set the terms of debate.
The 2020 COVID pandemic ended the prosperity and Trump failed to hold the White House that year. However, despite having brought fools like public health bureaucrat Anthony Fauci to prominence, Trump’s legacy is largely intact, especially since the 2020 election was intentionally flawed.
But this place in history can easily morph into one of failure and lamentation if Trump attacks DeSantis, which presumably he must continue to do if he makes the mistake of running for the presidency again. He could go down in Republican history as a bitter, defeated, indicted, self-involved loser.
Most Republicans and even fearful Democrats see DeSantis and other figures like him on the New Right as Trump without the baggage. Unlike the Republicans of old who seemed primarily to want only to hold office and attend things, one can picture DeSantis leaping out of bed each morning thinking of new ways that he can stick it to the powers on the Left that have done so much damage to the American dream.
Unlike Chamber of Commerce Republicans who coddle woke corporate America, DeSantis drove the pain train over Disney when it lied about the Florida parents’ rights law that prevents preaching transgenderism to young students. He called the legislature into action within a week and had Disney’s cushy legal set-aside in Florida revoked.
When a George Soros-back prosecutor in Tampa tried not to enforce the law, DeSantis fired him.
When Trump was still hosting disastrous, multi-hour press conferences with Fauci, DeSantis was planning to buck the phony experts to reopen Florida and get kids safely back to school.
In one stroke, DeSantis did more than any other Republican to highlight the open-border crisis and progressive sanctimony by flying illegals to Martha’s Vineyard. Does anyone doubt that DeSantis, unlike Trump, could actually get the wall built?
And then there is the Florida political-economic miracle. DeSantis can cite any number of economic statistics to show how income-tax-free Florida is doing better than most of the country but the most convincing argument is the sheer number of people and businesses moving to the state. Before winning the popular vote tonight, DeSantis won the U-Haul vote over the past four years.
At the heart of his appeal isn’t just a willingness to fight. DeSantis has another thing Trump lacks: discipline. DeSantis has shown how to move from risk or opportunity to idea to government policy to communications and finally to enacted law. It requires more than emoting and spazzing out on social media.
Most importantly, it requires good judgment in people to help one govern. DeSantis chooses skilled winners. Trump chose people like Omarosa, Anthony Scaramucci, Fauci, Jim “Moderate Dog” Mattis, Christopher Wray and legions of other swamp critters who wanted high office but, in many cases, were in over their heads or opposed his agenda. Some of Trump’s people say they learned their lesson about failed personnel and will do better given another chance, but this claim is undermined by Trump’s continued misjudgment.
He is surrounded in retirement by grifters and even afforded leftwing journalists Bob Woodward of the Washington Post political tabloid and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times multiple hours of access to him. Predictably, they recently turned around and put out scathing products that helped themselves and hurt Trump.
A second Trump administration would be a similar management disaster to the first. Unlike winners such as DeSantis, Trump would probably lose the popular vote again, undermining any hoped-for mandate. Unable to run for a subsequent term, Trump would be a lame duck the day he took office.
He would be 82 when he leaves office, three years older than dotard Joe Biden is today. Nominating Trump would be a huge missed opportunity to pass the torch to a new generation of fighters who are actually skilled at government and who can win decisively in 2024.
Many and maybe most Republican voters know all of this. They are grateful to Trump for what he accomplished and the movement he created, but will see his candidacy as backward-looking and self-indulgent as well as an effort to get ahead of a federal criminal indictment that is unfair but nonetheless likely.
The final result of the election won’t be known for some time, but Republican performance seems to be weaker than other midterm elections in which the president’s popularity is below 50%.
Furthermore, since midterm setbacks in 1994 and 2010 still led to Democrat presidents getting reelected in 1996 and 2012, this outcome means victory in 2024 is far from a sure thing and Republicans must choose wisely.
It’s time to ditch Trump, who is off his game and would lose.
This article was originally published on the author’s Substack page, which can be accessed here.
Christian Whiton was a senior adviser in the Donald Trump and George W. Bush administrations. He is a senior fellow at the Center for the National Interest.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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