Ron DeSantis’ team panders to the 'nutball right' — then takes offense when you notice: ex-GOP strategist
So far, former President Donald Trump is the clear frontrunner in the 2024 GOP presidential primary. Polls released in late May found Trump leading his main challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, by 33 percent (Fox News), 31 percent (Quinnipiac) or 27 percent (CNN).
Yet some far-right anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists believe that Trump betrayed the MAGA movement when he promoted COVID-19 vaccines. DeSantis has been making a concerted effort to win over anti-vaxxers, and Never Trump conservative Tim Miller calls him out for it in a scathing column published by The Bulwark on June 5.
"The official 'DeSantis War Room' went after Trump for his unwillingness to 'acknowledge any of the adverse effects' of the vaccine in a conversation with a voter at one of his events," Miller observes. "The DeSantis campaign instead sided with the voter — who was arguing that it was the vaccine that caused deaths, rather than preventing them."
Miller, a former GOP strategist, argues that DeSantis' campaign is pandering to extremists only to take offense when people "notice."
"In the face of this campaign strategy," Miller writes, "the argument proffered by DeSantis supporters to skeptics in the middle is that we just have to sit there and take it while DeSantis does nothing to appeal to us and instead works like a mule to cater to the concerns of the anti-vax freaks and the most bigoted wing of the anti-woke brigade."
Miller continues, "I'm sorry, but being told we have to ignore our lying ears in order to defeat Trump is not a compelling argument….. So yeah, Ron DeSantis is far less likely to be the leader of a violent overthrow of the government than Trump. Strong agree! But you can't run to the nutball right of the person who tried to do that and then get mad at us simply for noticing."
Among Never Trumpers, there has been much debate over whether Trump or DeSantis would be more dangerous in the White House in 2025. Miller is a blistering critic of DeSantis, but he clearly views Trump as the greater threat to U.S. democracy.
"This risk assessment is based, in part, on the record of both men in office," Miller explains. "You might recall that one has already attempted a coup. But it's also based on what Rummy (Donald Rumsfeld) called the known unknowns. How catastrophic would the staffing of a second Trump Administration be? Would Kari Lake be VP? Might lunatic cult leader Mike Flynn control the military?"
Miller continues, "Would Trump try to terminate the Constitution? Side with Putin in Ukraine? Similarly, the known unknowns for DeSantis tend to point in a less catastrophic direction. Would RD move to the center in a general election? I don't think so. Hire a more competent staff? Certainly. Is his personality less likely to inspire a rabid, violent death cult? Clearly."
Read Tim Miller's full column for The Bulwark at this link.
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