Issues & Insights

DeSantis Escapes Car Wreck – But Not Campaign Train Wreck

“DeSantis is unhurt in a car accident in Tennessee while traveling to presidential campaign events.” – AP

So Guv Ron escaped injury in a car wreck engulfing his security entourage recently. Too bad the same can’t be said for his chances of relocating from Tallahassee to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, now close to being crushed in his continuing train wreck of a campaign.

When your poll numbers nationally and in key swing states are plunging faster than a J-Lo neckline – when you’re slashing staff to preserve cash and hitting the hustings despite near-record hauls – when your bid is compared to presidential pratfalls by Scott Walker and Kamala Harris – and especially when you’re assuring supporters of your “top-to-bottom review” and the dreaded campaign “reboot” – two thoughts arise.

Man the lifeboats. And look out below.

Meanwhile, what’s at the heart of this “reboot?” Per apparently abundant background briefings of every media person in sight, changing the message to a personalized approach – “let Ron be Ron” – with “more of a national focus than constant Florida references.”

Oh. So threatening to “slit throats” is part of letting Ron be Ron?

Roger Kimball offers his free advice to DeSantis in the Spectator.  This message guy will do the same, around three cardinal rules, two perennial, and one specific to the last three campaign cycles.

Number one: don’t let the other guy define you. DeSantis and Company sat smugly tight as Donald Trump dubbed him “Ron DeSanctis” and “Ron DeSanctimonious.” The monikers seemed lame at launch. But have stuck like glue.

Meanwhile, the legacy media and far left – but I repeat myself – have tarred the Guv as the second coming of Atilla the Hun and Adolf Hitler, characterizations the ten-thumbed campaign gobsmackingly helped along with epically amateurish social media videos attacking LGBTs and employing, of all the world’s available icons, a Nazi symbol.

Number two: when you do respond, do not – repeat, not – mix it up with The Donald. Ask Lying Ted, Little Marco, and Low-Energy Jeb.

The meister of late-night-tweeted tweaks has a base that, while potentially weary of constant drama, still lets him get away with outrages no one else in political history could survive. Attacking John McCain’s POW record and a Gold Star family. Questioning the impartiality of a judge of color. Telling sitting members of Congress to go back where they came from (even if that’s the U.S.). 

That base is also fiercely protective in the face of counterattacks. DeSantis’ sudden slide toward campaign oblivion, in fact, started with a seemingly offhand, humorously intended remark while defending Trump against a pending indictment: “I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair.” Which subjected him to a fusillade of criticism from MAGA-ville and a typically Donald-ish threat to hold forth on the Governor’s own supposed sexcapades.

And number three, the James Carville “It’s-the-economy-stupid!” maxim: Find the narrative that resonates with voters and stay relentlessly on message. The right message for DeSantis is not, repeat NOT, his galactically boring personal story and especially personality.

It’s precisely the one the campaign now proposes precipitously and inexplicably to abandon: Florida. Or to put it in Ragin’ Cajun terminology: “It’s Flori-DUH!” 

The Governator, Southeast Version, and his campaign cohort must read, re-read, re-re-read, riff on, and repeat – ad infinitum, ad nauseam, and maybe even ad absurdum – the preamble to his second Inaugural Address. 

And to get out from under the endless enfilade of opprobrium from Trump’s camp in one fell swoop with no further futile whacks at the Trump Tar Baby, preface it with the legendary Gipper’s old standby:

“President Reagan lived by a principle he called the 11th Commandment: ‘Thou shalt not criticize a fellow Republican.’ I think that’s a pretty good guideline, and it’s how I intend to conduct my campaign, regardless of what others do. 

“I’m going to let our record in Florida speak for itself and for how we’ll take America back from Joe Biden and the radical progressives destroying our nation.

“And what does that record say? Florida is #1.

“The #1 fastest-growing state in terms of net in-migration.

“#1 in new business formation.

“#1 in tourism.

“#1 in economic and educational freedom, with school choice now available to every family.

“#1 in empowering parental involvement in education.

“#1 in public higher education.

“And the #1 largest budget surplus and tax relief package in our history benefitting Florida families who are grappling with inflation.”

“Not to mention not only becoming the number one place where Americans come to find freedom and opportunity, but where woke comes to die. 

“And oh, yeah … huge teacher raises, billions for protecting environmentally sensitive areas, and fully funding the police.

“America can be #1 again too, if we bring that same Florida Freedom Agenda to all 50 states. And that’s what I am running to do.”

Recite. Rinse. Repeat. Repeat some more. 

And one hopes (this correspondent remaining for now in his own Guv’s corner), recover from the damage inflicted by your early, gnarly, calamitous crashes.

You’re welcome.

Bob Maistros is a messaging and communications strategist, crisis specialist, and former political speechwriter. He can be reached at

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  • He aligned himself with the GOP Establishment to create a power base as opposed to organically building his own like Trump, and he’s taken their advice to campaign as an Establishment candidate. That’s why he’s failing, he’s not being authentic, he’s making weak and stupid attacks on Trump and adopting inauthentic positions. Not to mention an internal campaign memo that was leaked says the strategy is to run to the Right to get the nomination and then run to the Center to win the general election. Everybody sees through that. he needs to reject the cash and advice of the Establishment and run on his own record of success in Florida — probably too late for that, so he’ll have 4 years to figure it out.

  • Entertaining article, Bob, but you omitted a couple of the more subtle unforced errors — big ones — by DeSantis. (1) His hand-picked state surgeon general,Joseph Ladapo, is one of the most irresponsible, dishonest, idiotic surgeons general in history: (2) DeSantis said he might invite total nut-case RFK, Jr. to have a senior position at NIH or CDC. (3) His imperious banning of local mask- or vaccine-mandates anywhere in Florida undoubtedly caused many preventable deaths from COVID.

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