Ron DeSantis’ lack of 'bipartisan success' is the key to his popularity with MAGA voters: columnist
In the past, numerous Republican and Democratic governors prided themselves on their bipartisan accomplishments and their ability to get things done with members of another party. Some GOP governors still fit that description, including Maryland’s Larry Hogan and Massachusetts’ Charlie Baker.
But the word “bipartisan” is seldom used in connection with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a highly performative MAGA Republican who goes out of his way to be confrontational with Democrats. DeSantis, much like former President Donald Trump, has been an incredibly polarizing figure; Democrats and Never Trump conservatives seldom have anything good to say about the far-right MAGA governor, but he is wildly popular with the MAGA base and would probably have a good shot at the 2024 GOP presidential nomination if Trump doesn’t run.
That lack of bipartisanship, Washington Post opinion writer Paul Waldman laments in his October 26 column, is the reason for DeSantis’ popularity among MAGA voters.
“For many years,” Waldman explains, “governors running for president made the argument, ‘Things are going great in my state, and it’s because I’ve brought people together, no matter their party, to solve problems and get things done.’ That was George W. Bush’s message in 2000; he was ‘a different kind of Republican,’ he would say again and again, touting his work with Democrats in Texas. In 1992, Bill Clinton said he was ‘a new kind of Democrat,’ more moderate than what voters were familiar with. Even Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter could tout accomplishments that transcended party.”
But Waldman goes on to argue that Baker, Hogan and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, would be unable to “win the Republican presidential nomination” in 2024.
“It’s not just because they’re more moderate than someone such as DeSantis on the issues,” Waldman observes. “It’s also because their success at state governing has made them anathema to the party base.”
In contrast to Baker or Hogan, Waldman adds, DeSantis has become a “frequently mentioned presidential contender” because “he has been more aggressive than any other governor in using state power to punish the right’s enemies, staging high-profile fights that target immigrants, LGBTQ Floridians and companies such as Disney.”
“That’s what thrills the GOP base, and what they now want to see from any governor,” Waldman writes. “DeSantis also has a media strategy aimed at conservatives. Early in his term, he became a fixture on Fox News, as the network promoted him as the next Republican star.”
Waldman argues that the Democratic governors who are most often mentioned as “potential presidents” aren’t afraid to be combative with Republicans, including California’s Gavin Newsom and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer.
“Newsom has gone out of his way to start fights with Republicans in other states,” Waldman notes. “Whitmer has been embroiled in intense controversies with her own state’s Republicans over abortion and other issues. In contrast, Democratic governors who run red states, including Laura Kelly in Kansas, Andy Beshear in Kentucky and John Bel Edwards in Louisiana, have garnered little national attention.”
Waldman continues, “If anything, governors might now need to become more partisan if they want to run for president. The days of the ‘different kind’ of Republican or Democrat, touting bipartisan success at the state level, are behind us.”
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