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Trump’s kitchen sink attack on DeSantis, analyzed


Consider former President Donald Trump’s design aesthetic, which could be described as “Versaillesian.” Given a palette of colors and accessories to choose from when decorating his properties, Trump seems to have consistently opted for “all of the above.”

The same goes for his attacks on political competitors. Trump’s lack of restraint in targeting those who might be obstacles to his power is now legendary, established indisputably during the 2016 Republican presidential nominating contest and has only grown stronger since then. He will attack any opponent with anything within reach.

Usually, however, the attacks are piecemeal, discreet. (NB: That doesn’t mean “low key.”) Not so with Trump’s attack on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Wednesday. Presented with a palette of options, Trump again appears to have opted for “all of the above” as his distribution strategy.

Some of the attacks even had the advantage of being precise.

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The apparent trigger for the lengthy statement in which Trump is suing DeSantis was an interview the governor gave to television host Piers Morgan. DeSantis’ actual criticisms of Trump weren’t that solid, but it was helpful for both Trump and Morgan to pretend they were. Trump spent months pushing DeSantis with slowly increasing force, hoping DeSantis would push back, giving Trump an excuse to lash out in response.

Then, over the course of over 300 words, he did. Here, in an effort to separate fact from fiction — and since this appears to be a fairly comprehensive demonstration of how Trump will attempt to attack DeSantis in the future — is Trump’s statement, sentence by sentence.

“Now that Ron DeSanctimonious is finally admitting he’s in the running by starting to defend himself, and now that his polls have crashed so he has no other choice, let me tell you the facts.”

This question of when DeSantis will actually announce his campaign has prompted a separate attack on the governor, with a political action committee supporting Trump filing a complaint against him for participating in campaign activities without being a declared candidate. It’s not likely to go anywhere; there is a long history of people running but not running before announcing official offers.

Trump’s description of DeSantis “starting to fight back,” of course, is the “well, he pushed me” rationalization for all the screed here. And Trump has something of a point. DeSantis has slipped in the polls (not really “collapsed” as such) in part, it’s safe to assume, because Trump harassed him.

“He is, for a Republican, an average governor, he got 1.2 million fewer votes in Florida than me, he fought for massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and wanted that the minimum social security age be raised to 70 or more. He is a follower of Paul D. Ryan and did everything Ryan told him to do.

It’s true that DeSantis got fewer votes in his 2022 re-election campaign than Trump got in his 2020 bid — but only about 1 million fewer. But, of course, Trump was running in a presidential election year. DeSantis was running midterm, although turnout was high, and entered election day with a considerable lead over his opponent.

More important to voters (if not Trump personally) are these claims about cutting Social Security. DeSantis, while running and then serving in the House, aligned himself with House Republican leaders, including eventual Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), on efforts to revamp spending social security and health insurance. That was Republican orthodoxy at the time, a period in which Trump’s involvement in politics was mostly centered on amplifying right-wing cultural struggles and attacking President Barack Obama.

The party, now heavily made up of older Americans, recently relaxed its approach to federal programs for retirees. Trump therefore hopes to twist the knife with a group that will likely make up a large part of the Republican primary electorate.

At the same time, perhaps unwittingly, Trump highlights one of DeSantis’ main criticisms: that he accepts what is popular or seems like the best way to increase his power.

“Florida was successful for many years, long before I put Ron there – It’s amazing what Ocean and Sunshine are going to do!”

Trump kind of “put Ron out there,” i.e. as Governor of Florida. DeSantis’ strong defenses of Trump on Fox News caught Trump’s attention, and he endorsed DeSantis’ candidacy for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2018. DeSantis’ campaign that year was overblown by comparing DeSantis to the then president. Witness it:

As for Florida being popular before DeSantis’ tenure, that’s also true. In 1960, it was the 10th most populous state in the United States. In 1980 he was seventh and in 2000 fourth. In 2014, it overtook New York to be the third most populous state.

“Surprise Ron was a big Chinese virus lockdown governor, sealing off all the beaches and everything else for a long period of time, was the third worst in the country for COVID-19 deaths (losing 86,294 people) , the third worst for the total number of cases, at 7,516,906.

Trump then focuses on the coronavirus pandemic as it is a point of attack for DeSantis. In the interview with Morgan, the governor criticized Trump for adhering to the recommendations of the government’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony S. Fauci. Here, Trump suggests that DeSantis’ handling of the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the state’s residents.

Note, however, that Florida comes third on both measures, according to Trump. But it’s also the third most populous state, so you’d expect those rankings to be what they are.

Adjusted for population, Washington Post data has Florida as the state with the 12th highest number of cases and 12th highest number of deaths. It’s worse than other populous states and worse than most states overall. Research has shown that the pandemic was particularly deadly for Republicans in Florida after vaccines became available, as the rejection of those vaccines became a partisan marker. DeSantis has made vaccine skepticism a growing aspect of his administration and outreach to Republicans.

“Other Republican Governors have done MUCH BETTER than Ron and because I allowed them this ‘freedom’ they never shut down their states. Remember, I left that decision to the Governors! For rates of COVID mortality by state, Ron, as Governor of Florida, has done worse than New York.

Again, Trump tries to neutralize DeSantis’ speech against pandemic restrictions, suggesting he was the first “do whatever you want” politician. Both leaders put restrictions in place and quickly realized there was a political advantage in lifting them. The Post’s Aaron Blake wrote about this debate in January.

The fact that there are more deaths in Florida relative to population than in New York is true. Our data shows that Florida has recorded 404 deaths per 100,000 population, compared to 396 in the Empire State.

“In education, Florida ranks among the worst in the nation and according to crime statistics, Florida is ranked third worst for murder, third worst for rape and third worst for aggravated assault. . For 2022, Jacksonville was ranked among the top 25 crime cities in the nation, with Tampa and Orlando not faring much better.

Trump is starting to get a little vague here. We do not know where the demand for education comes from; a 2021 analysis by U.S. News and World Report places the state third in education.

Crime figures, on the other hand, are notoriously flawed. Crime statistics are collected on an annual basis by the FBI, but participation varies by municipality, especially since the FBI has revised what it asks of police departments. Even when data is provided, it is necessarily outdated. That said, it’s true that Jacksonville was more deadly last year than, say, New York.

“On education, Florida ranks 39th in health and safety in the nation, 50th in affordability, and 30th in education and child care, BY LITTLE WAY!”

These figures come from an analysis by WalletHub.

“The fact is, Ron is an average governor, but by far the best in the country in one category, public relations, where he easily ranks number one – But that’s all just a mirage, just look at the facts and figures, they don’t lie – And we don’t want Ron as president!”

It’s probably true that DeSantis is better than most or all other governors at getting media attention, for what that’s worth. It’s also true that many Republican voters prefer candidates other than DeSantis for the 2024 presidential nomination — though, to Trump’s frustration, many of them also prefer DeSantis to him.

There is another important piece of context to this, of course. Examining the “facts and figures” presented by Trump is only part of DeSantis’ record. That’s what Trump often does, identifying a few things and then insisting that those are the only important things. He is certainly not responsible for providing an unbiased view of DeSantis, but this caveat is worth remembering.

After all, Trump literally include every design element and paint swatch in its interior layouts. In the end, he does everything he can to close the sale.


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