'Insane': Trump falls victim to a McConnell trap that McConnell didn't actually set
If you’re rooting for Republicans to spontaneously combust over the next few years on the road to the greater American good, this story is just your speed.
After Donald Trump insinuated last week that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was “gutless” for failing to admit his booster status, DeSantis lamented that his biggest regret as governor was failing to more forcefully oppose the federal pandemic lockdowns implemented under Trump (though DeSantis declined to implicate Trump by name). Thus begins a parting of the ways between the top two contenders for the 2024 GOP nomination.
We all knew this was coming, right? One could sense DeSantis’ head swelling as he doubled down on Trumpian bravado and pursued far more brash anti-vaccination policies than even Trump himself did in office. DeSantis was clearly getting too big for his britches, and Trump was bound to respond by knocking him down a notch.
So after Trump twice admitted last year to being vaxxed and boosted on two separate occasions and got booed on both, he had little choice other than to take a whack at DeSantis for declining to admit his booster status.
"I watched a couple politicians be interviewed and one of the questions was, 'Did you get a booster?'” Trump told One America News last week. “The answer is 'yes' but they don't want to say it, because they're gutless.”
Trump added, "You gotta say it. Whether you had it or not, say it."
Following Trump’s jab, last Thursday DeSantis told the conservative podcast Ruthless that one of his biggest regrets was not taking a stronger stance against the federal lockdowns early in the pandemic. At the time in 2020, DeSantis had been counseling the White House on its pandemic response."I never thought in February, early March, that (coronavirus) would lead to locking down the country," DeSantis told Ruthless host Josh Holmes. "I just didn't. I didn't think that was on the radar."
DeSantis went on to tag Dr. Anthony Fauci, then a top public health adviser to Trump, for giving the White House bad advice. But even so, the retort seemed more along the lines of, You wanna know what’s really gutless? Shutting down the whole country over coronavirus.
Trump and his political henchmen were quick to note the clapback from one of the few 2024 GOP hopefuls who has declined to say he would be deferential to Trump if he decided to run.
That’s a clear point of tension for Trump. Axios reports that Trump has told allies something to the effect of: "What's the big deal? Why won't he just say he's not going to run against me?"
Well, Trump, because DeSantis is running.But Trump also managed to add an extra bit of paranoia to the equation by noting that Josh Holmes, the Ruthless host, is a former McConnell aide who remains close to the minority leader. In other words, the DeSantis sniping was a setup orchestrated by McConnell behind the scenes.“I like Josh. Josh is great. But he’s a wholly owned subsidiary of McConnell World. And there’s no way you can tell me that this was all a coincidence,” a top Trump adviser told NBC News, echoing several other Trump allies.Oh, yes, indeed, let’s draw McConnell into this web of intrigue.
Holmes called the accusation “insane,” but said he didn’t want to elaborate on the hearsay.
But the truth is really delicious on all fronts. First, McConnell really doesn’t have the political juice to take down Trump, partly because of his unbelievably anemic poll numbers with the GOP base.
At the same time, Trump has had a pretty desperate run for the last several months between the boos he’s getting from supporters, Senate Republicans’ sudden admission that he lost 2020, and his recent dustup with DeSantis—whom he firmly believes would be a no-name loser without his backing in the Florida’s 2018 GOP primary.
“Look, I helped Ron DeSantis at a level that nobody’s ever seen before,” Trump said in an interview for a forthcoming book, Insurgency, by New York Times reporter Jeremy W. Peters. Trump added that DeSantis “didn’t have a chance” of winning without his help.
Last October, Trump told Yahoo Finance, “I'd beat [DeSantis] like I would beat everyone else.”
That quote is oozing with fright. DeSantis is a legit threat to Trump, who appears to be on shaky ground with a base that has planted its anti-vaxx flag on the hill of “You’re either with us, or you’re against us.”
So the smart money is on a lot more GOP sparks flying over the coming months, which will ultimately force a lot of people (politicians and donors alike) to place their bets on either Trump or DeSantis.
In the meantime, the McConnell wing of the party will be dying a slow death due to the tumult in the runup to a November election that, historically, favors their party.
All the while, the GOP base stands a very good chance of splintering on the road to 2024.