“It’s just stupid”
Right behind Trump, DeSantis blinks wildly
By Roland Peters
06/27/2023 10:44 p.m
Florida’s governor wants to become US President, but has to get past Donald Trump in the primaries. Now he is answering questions from voters in the state of New Hampshire. The Republican shows that he is a little further to the right.
The question from the audience is explosive. “Do you think Trump has violated the Founding Fathers’ principle of peaceful transfer of power, one of the keys to American democracy that we must uphold?” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis now has to be extremely careful about what he says. It’s about January 6, 2021, the riot, the storming of the Capitol in Washington, and the ex-president’s potential responsibility for it. DeSantis wants to be in the White House himself. It is his first confrontation with Republican voters in key New Hampshire.
The governor distracts, almost rhetorically asking if the 18-year-old goes to high school and where he’s from, and then says: If we focus on President Joe Biden’s failure, we will win the 2024 election. If we renegotiate things that happened two or three years ago, we lose. The audience applauds him for it. He mentions his “historic” re-election as governor of Florida, that he had nothing to do with the events of January 6th and concludes: “We have to look forward.” The banner behind him reads “restore sanity” in huge letters.
The governor and Trump’s main rival for the US Republican candidacy smoothly dodged the bullet. DeSantis can’t afford to alienate Trump’s base. He has to convince them that he would be the better Trump. The governor outperformed the ex-president in polls earlier this year, but has since fallen behind: Trump leads his competitor by around 30 percent. He can’t afford to back down, on the contrary. New Hampshire is one of the first handful of area code states and is therefore indispensable for applicants. Those who do well here at the beginning of next year will remain in the running for the candidacy and may even be able to pull the helm to their side as a result.
Accordingly, the conservatives there are hand in hand, even going through the door at the same time: while DeSantis is responding to questions from the audience, three other applicants are at events in the state. Including Trump at the Republican Women’s Association. For an analyst, this is a clear tactical error by DeSantis: “It’s just stupid,” he says at “Politico” quoted. You don’t mess with the women’s association in New Hampshire.
Flash right and refer to driving test
New Hampshire, northeast of New York City, is also a major gathering place for Republican politics because open primaries are held here. Americans who are not registered with any party can go to the polls on election day. Swing voters can also appear spontaneously and bring an unexpected primary victory. The lobby group “Never Back Down” (Never give in) is pumping a lot of money and energy for DeSantis in the first primary states. Teams are already going door-to-door in Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire trying to convince local residents.
Instead of attacking Trump head-on, the culture warrior DeSantis blinks wildly to the right. The “swamp” of politics should not only be drained, but “broken up” so that it won’t be filled up again like under President Joe Biden, he explains. The “faceless bureaucracy,” he complains, has grown into the fourth estate and can “do whatever it wants with impunity” — for example, promote renewable energy to the detriment of fossil fuels. DeSantis is also playing on the environmental protection agency EPA. In Washington DC, half of the state employees should go, the head of the FBI would be fired, and an attorney general with a “backbone of steel” would be installed. The military must focus on completing missions, not “woke” culture clashes. They’re positions that score points with most Republicans.
DeSantis has repeatedly stated that he sees foreign policy in the Pacific region as much more important than Europe. China is the biggest threat, possibly even bigger than the Soviet Union during the Cold War: “We have to treat Asia the same way we treated Europe after the Second World War.” Germany and others need to invest more in their defense. The clout of the Navy must be doubled in the West. The goal is global deterrence so as not to have to go to war. “We need a 21st-century version of the Monroe Doctrine and need to get China out of our backyard.” By this he means China’s economic engagement in Latin America.
DeSantis also promises the wall
As with his response to the 18-year-old, DeSantis keeps coming back to his past years as governor of this townhall. He not only blinks to the right, but at the same time insists on his driving test, his evidence as a doer: He has been able to achieve more in his state of Florida than he promised, and he will do the same as president. Among other things, DeSantis has boasted of banning a Chinese propaganda institute from universities and banning land purchases by the Communist Party. In April, he signed legislation banning abortion after the 6th week, one of the toughest in the US. The rules for migrants without a residence permit have been tightened.
Anyway, the migration: Before he accepts questions from the audience, he holds a long monologue, which he began with an almost quarter-hour lecture on immigration and the likely consequences. “Millions and millions from all over the world” come to the USA, nobody knows who they are, some of them criminals who harm communities. “We will stop the invasion, fight the drug cartels and yes, we will actually build the wall and restore our country’s independence.” There was a lot of applause for this stringent version of Trump’s vocabulary, including a small jab at the ex-president. Trump had repeatedly announced a wall on the US southern border with Mexico, but did not complete it.
In August, Trump and DeSantis will face each other on a television stage for the first time. According to analysts, however, the governor cannot avoid finally being more approachable to voters. “Retail policy” is what the jargon calls it. In New Hampshire he tried to do just that and lived up to his hands-on tone: “My main approach is: No excuses, we’ll get the job done!” he says at one point about his agenda. Whether that will be enough to come up against Trump, who is over-represented in the media, and steal his base from him is another question. DeSantis pretends to know this: “There’ll be a new sheriff in town based on merit.”