We are officially in the beginnings of what is likely to be a long, hot, maddening summer in American politics, with the growing field of Republican presidential candidates continuing to make their cases to GOP voters while trying to get back some of the air that has been sucked out of the room by the Donald Trump indictment news.
The GOP contender who is getting the most media attention outside of the former president, of course, is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who like many of his fellow rivals recently visited the Golden State, where some well-deserved, on-point trolling of Gov. Gavin Newsom commenced.
After that trip, DeSantis returned to Florida, and on Thursday he held a press conference at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa to discuss his administration’s higher ed reform efforts. During the presser, DeSantis was asked point blank if he’d support Trump if he won the GOP nomination.
DeSantis responded by pivoting to Trump’s criticism of his handling of the Wuhan virus pandemic in the Sunshine State, noting it was at odds with what Trump had said while he was president:
“So, what I would say is this. When you are saying that Cuomo did better on Covid than Florida did, you are revealing yourself to just be full of it. Nobody believes that. And you know why I know that? Because I remember in 2020, in 2021, when he was praising Florida for being open, saying we did it much better than New York and Michigan and everyone was coming to Florida, and that [I was] one of the great governors in the United States. And he used to say that all the time.
Now, all of a sudden, his tune is changing, and I would just tell people, do you find it credible? Do you honestly find it credible? Would you have rather been in New York during Covid under [the] Cuomo regime? Or would you rather have been in the free state of Florida?
And I probably can count the number of Republicans on my hand in the nation who would have rather been under Cuomo in New York. And we know that, and so these are just frivolous criticisms. But, in some respects I think it shows that if you have to make that argument then you probably don’t have very good arguments, because the reality is everything he said about us for years about how strong we were, how good we were, how we delivered for the state, those happened to be true.
And now he’s trying to backtrack because he views he needs to do that, and he’s saying things that are false. And so, that’s fine if you want to do it. I don’t think people are gonna to buy it, I don’t think it’s ultimately going to matter in the end, I think we’re gonna be successful.Advertisement
But, at the same time you have to get into these processes, it’s like, I want to beat Biden, okay? I will do that, I will get that done, and I think more importantly than that I will actually bring these policies … and get it all done [in DC].”
He then went on to point out that when you make promises to Republican voters and you don’t deliver, then Democrats get in and do what they want to do, insinuating that we should want to avoid that this time around.
DeSantis also said that the primary process is an “important” one and indicated he will respect the outcome of the nomination race even if he doesn’t end up winning it.
“But it’s an important process and, you know, you respect the process and you respect the people’s decisions how this goes. But I’m very confident that those decisions are going to be positive for us.”
DeSantis is taking heat from the usual corners on social media over not outright committing to supporting Trump at this stage in the game, but it should be noted that Trump himself – just as he did in 2016 – has not committed to supporting the eventual nominee if it isn’t him, and likely won’t because I suspect he figures with his polling numbers where they are right now that it’s going to be him.
All of that said, clearly DeSantis is loaded for bear on the issue of his handling of COVID (as he should be, considering how his critics relentlessly vilified him and called him a murderer), with Trump campaign surrogates often echoing Trump’s change in tune on how DeSantis managed his state versus ex-NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Regardless of where one falls in the battle between Trump and DeSantis, in my opinion I think DeSantis more than Trump is going to have the receipts to back up his arguments on his managing of the COVID outbreak versus Trump’s when the debates start, which could be a turning point in their respective campaigns considering how Republican voters have not forgotten what was done in this country and to it under the guise of keeping people “safe.”