Amid reports that disgraced former President Donald Trump will announce Tuesday night that he is again running for the White House, media outlets are already earnestly promoting his potential rivalry with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL).
Much of the developing media narrative has centered on whether the Republican Party is prepared to break from Trump, as he seeks to maintain his hold over the GOP base in the wake of disappointing results for his endorsed candidates in the midterm elections. This question of Trump’s future as the leader of the GOP has seemingly come up before, such as after his failed coup d’etat, only for the party to continue supporting him.
Now, with the potential emergence of DeSantis following his nearly 20-point reelection victory, Trump faces a rival who would push all the same extremist policies, presenting a break not so much from “Trumpism” as just from Trump himself.
In a struggle to imagine that there is any further distinction between the two men, The Washington Post published an opinion piece from National Review writer Jim Geraghty, absurdly titled “DeSantis would pave the way for a post-Trump GOP return to normal.” The piece featured such contradictions as claiming DeSantis “fights for policies, not to prosecute vendettas,” then touting as an actual achievement that he went after Disney as a “woke corporation” for opposing the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law DeSantis pushed.
Geraghty further claimed DeSantis “has never claimed the 2020 presidential election was rigged or stolen,” though he further added that “it would have been preferable” if DeSantis had not campaigned with Trump-endorsed election denier candidates Doug Mastriano and Kari Lake, as he did. “By the low standards of today’s GOP, though, a Republican who ignored Trump’s 2020 bellyaching is a step in the right direction,” Geraghty concluded on this point. (In fact, DeSantis publicly called in 2020 for Republican-led state legislatures to throw out election results and appoint pro-Trump electors, which Geraghty ignored in this piece.)
For the stable of Republican commentators at CNN, Trump is now as politically vulnerable as ever and in danger of being eclipsed in the hearts of Republican base voters — likely by DeSantis.
- Former Trump deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews: “I mean, Donald Trump, we saw in that one poll that Floridians don't want to see him run in 2024, but DeSantis is someone who potentially could be a formidable opponent for, you know, Joe Biden if he runs again in 2024.” [CNN, CNN This Morning, 11/9/22]
- Former Trump campaign adviser David Urban: “It’s the elephant in the room. Ron DeSantis crushes in the state of Florida, builds an incredible coalition that can be — you know, if he can replicate it nationwide would be very formidable. So I think if you’re a Republican in America today and you're looking to have a Lincoln Day dinner and you’re looking for a speaker, it’s not going to be Donald Trump; you’re gonna want Ron DeSantis to come. And so my point is, you know, it's shifted to Tallahassee from Mar-a-Lago. Ron Desantis is ‘DeFuture,’ as the New York Post said so eloquently. [CNN, CNN This Morning, 11/10/22]
- Conservative pollster Frank Luntz showed CNN a focus group of Republican voters describing DeSantis as “a more polished version of Trump” who “doesn’t degrade or say things that are just off-putting.” “They're over the language, they're over the meanness, they’re over the ugliness,” Luntz later said of people abandoning Trump. “More than anything else, I'll give you one word to close the segment — unity.” (Fact check: During his election night speech, DeSantis embraced culture-war language with his declaration that “Florida is where woke goes to die.”) [CNN, CNN This Morning, 11/14/22]
- CNN commentator Alice Stewart: “Many are ready to turn the page on Donald Trump, whether it is Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, or any host of others that have expressed interest in running. A lot of people in the Republican Party say enough is enough of this losing and we need to find a new positive voice for the Republican Party.” [CNN, CNN Newsroom Live, 11/14/22]
- CNN commentator Scott Jennings: “What we now have, though, is potentially Republican voters seeing the next lily pad, the next evolution, and going beyond Trump. Could that be Ron DeSantis of Florida? Perhaps. There will be other candidates in the mix. I think he's politically as weak as he's ever been, since January the 6th, anyway. The question is, will someone fill the gap here?” [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 11/14/22]
The Murdoch media empire has also run multiple pieces criticizing Trump, attempting to position DeSantis as a new winning prospect. Multiple Fox personalities and guests have also joined in the Trump-bashing while talking up DeSantis.
- The morning after the election, the News Corp-owned New York Post touted DeSantis as “DeFuture” on its cover, then attacked Trump the next morning as “Trumpy Dumpty.” [New York Post, 11/9/22 and 11/10/22]
- NY Post columnist Michael Goodwin: “Ron DeSantis shows he’s future of the GOP.” [New York Post, 11/9/22]
- Fox News guest Dov Hikind: “And I would say to Donald Trump, on November 15, you’re going to make a major announcement. I would advise you — and I have great respect for you and things that you accomplished — I would advise you to announce to the country that DeSantis is the one that we should support, so that we can win the White House in 2024. Donald Trump, you had your opportunity. You hurt your party that you love, your country, in this election. So Donald Trump, move on.”[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/9/22]
- Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz: “Donald Trump is not going to like this, but I got to tell you, the people I talk to, they say, ‘We love Donald Trump, we're so grateful that he beat Hillary Clinton. We love his policies. We think it’s unfair how the media has treated him. It’s unfair what the Department of Justice has treated him. But you know what? We don't like all the drama. We like Ron DeSantis.’ That's what I hear. And it’s going to be fascinating, but I don't think Republicans want to hear infighting between Donald Trump and Ron Desantis and right now Donald Trump keeps taking shots at Ron Desantis. That is not going to play well. [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 11/9/22]
- Fox Business host Stuart Varney: “If there is a Trump-DeSantis contest, it will be between forward-looking landslide winner and backward-looking former president who cannot accept his loss. Florida is the turning point for the Republican Party.” [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 11/9/22]
- Fox Business host Charles Payne: “I really believe that this is DeSantis’ party right now. And I really believe that Trump can play a great role if he would play a great role and not try to mess things up.” (Varney replied to Payne, “Dream on, Charles.” Payne responded, “Yeah. I know. I know.”) [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 11/9/22]
- FoxNews.com: “Conservative Twitter ready to crown DeSantis 'head of the party' after decisive election win.” [FoxNews.com, 11/9/22]
- Fox News columnist Liz Peek: “Ron DeSantis is the new Republican Party leader.” [FoxNews.com, 11/9/22]
- The Wall Street Journal editorial board: “Mr. Trump’s hand-picked candidates who supported the stolen 2020 election line to win his endorsement also appear to have driven away swing voters. … The counter example is Florida, where Republicans were able to create a separate governing identity from Mr. Trump. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis won 53% of independent voters to Democrat Charlie Crist’s 45%.” [The Wall Street Journal, 11/13/22]
- Fox News contributor Ben Domenech: “Donald Trump transformed the Republican Party, from my perspective in many ways for the better. … But he's also, I think, served his purpose in a way that I think many Republicans are satisfied with, and they would prefer now to move on in a generational way. They are tired of his act. They are tired of what he brings to the table. They would like to move on to his Trump-adjacent, still populist, still conservative, but less chaotic and more competent friend in Ron DeSantis — at least a friend until the last couple of weeks. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 11/14/22]