ROD THOMSON: DeSantis' campaign would've lost to Trump no matter what

The Republican Presidential Primary was short-lived, far shorter than most people are saying now. They think it ended Sunday with the suspension of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign and his endorsement of President Trump. But it actually ended April 4, 2023, the day that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced his clown show of 34 indictments against Trump.

Those who say DeSantis ran the worst campaign in Presidential history, such as Monday morning quarterbacking has-beens claim in Politico, seem to think that a better run campaign could have changed the outcome. Nonsense. (FYI, the lead author of that unserious hit piece was a leader in running the campaigns of Bob Dole, George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, and Mitt Romney — so maybe not so many stones should be thrown.)

Here’s a contrary opinion to today’s blather class: Despite the normal flubs along the way, and having covered many campaigns over the years, those are destined to happen, DeSantis’s campaign was actually pretty well done.

He raised an enormous amount of money. He did everything right by the book in Iowa, from visiting all 99 counties, to getting probably the top three endorsements in the state for Republican primary voters, and having the best door-knocking, get-out-the-vote ground game in Iowa history. Despite all those who know better now, it was well executed. Some things could have been done better in hindsight — not launching on Twitter, going on all the corporate media shows, creating more separation from the frontrunner. But those improvements would not have changed the outcome.

The truth is in the polls, which even the mainstream media noted last March sharply benefitted President Trump and the RealClearPolling average makes crystal clear. Once the first indictment of political persecution came down in New York, it was all over. In the snap of the fingers, the primary race went from being a competitive affair of about 15 points between the two men to a rout as Trump’s lead over DeSantis more than doubled and he never looked back.

Republicans have seen enough of the corrupted two-tiered justice system and in-the-open political corruption and Trump became the avatar for all of it. Further indictments from his Democrat political opponents just cemented his support. The most perfect campaign by the most perfect candidate would have stood no chance in this dynamic. That was not clear last spring, but it has since become very clear.

However, while that indisputably played a predominant role in Trump’s huge lead among GOP primary voters, it is far from clear that it will play the same role in the General Election. His base will be ginned up and other Republicans will vote against President Biden. But a significant number of Independents who support Trump now say they would not support him if he is convicted.

That red flag is why the tone set by DeSantis in dropping out was critical. After all the normal name-calling and “meatball” personal attacks during the campaign, DeSantis posted a fairly classy, even upbeat video on Twitter/X announcing his campaign suspension that endorsed Trump, diminished Nikki Haley and was a call for unity in the GOP to defeat Biden. The same day, Trump responded with his own fairly classy comments, complimenting DeSantis on running a great campaign and saying the name “DeSanctimonious” is retired.

There are an enormous number of uncertainties ahead. But there is one for sure: the GOP must be unified across the nation to stand a chance of winning back the White House.

So the DeSantis-Trump comments demonstrated the sort of unity essential for moving forward — it is just a matter of time before not-surging Haley drops out, unless she does a full John Kasich and earns the enmity of every Republican voter. A divided GOP won’t be able to beat even a semi-sentient, Saturday Night Live skit in Biden.

Now if team Trump could only get the attention of their Twitter trolls and influencers, as they seem to be stuck on bash-DeSantis autopilot, continuing to disparage DeSantis like he remains the enemy. They may not like to hear it, but every DeSantis supporter will be needed if Trump is to return to the White House in January 2025.

Rod Thomson is a former daily newspaper reporter and columnist, Salem radio host and ABC TV commentator, and current Founder of The Thomson Group, a Florida-based political consulting firm. He has eight children and seven grandchildren and a rapacious hunger to fight for America for them. Follow him on Twitter at @Rod_Thomson. Email him at [email protected].
 

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