Before we talk about DeSantis’s bid for Florida governor, let’s talk about the gubernatorial primary next door in Georgia. The winner of that race was Brian Kemp, who spent most of the campaign as the underdog. But then, about a week out, something changed.
And then other things began to change:
— Scott Paradise (@swparadise) July 25, 2018
Back to Florida. Trump endorsed DeSantis all the way back in December 2017 but no one was paying attention at the time to the gubernatorial race, which was still nearly a year away. DeSantis and former Rep. Adam Putnam were neck-and-neck in early GOP primary polling but Putnam started to gain the upper hand in early summer. Then, once again, something changed:
The shift between June 21 and July 2 was dramatic! What could have happened? Ah:
Doubtless at the candidate’s behest, Trump reminded Florida primary voters that DeSantis has the MAGA seal of approval. Literally overnight, DeSantis moved from underdog to favorite. That’s how much Trump owns the party right now. The more he cements his hold on it, the stranger it seems in hindsight that blood-red Alabama rejected his endorsements not once but twice in last year’s Senate special election. In that case there was an obvious populist against an obvious (yet Trump-endorsed) establishmentarian in the primary, which may have neutralized Trump’s endorsement. Where the populist gap is as wide as it was between Roy Moore and Luther Strange, even Trump can’t rescue the latter. But it’s rare that the gap is that wide. And where it isn’t, voters may simply follow Trump’s lead.
Putnam, knowing that DeSantis has Trump’s backing, has tried to muddy the populist/establishment waters lately by referring to DeSantis in ads as “D.C. DeSantis,” which triggered the new child-themed ad below. Lefties have been dunking on it on Twitter all morning, calling the spectacle of DeSantis’s toadying to Trump and the idea of MAGA indoctrination of toddlers “depressing.” But DeSantis gets the tone just right. It’s light as can be — his wife narrates and the Trump propaganda for kiddies is so broad that it plays as one long joke. It’s actually quite clever. If you love Trump, you’ll like that DeSantis is upfront with his Trump support here. If you’re lukewarm on Trump, you’ll get a laugh from the fact that DeSantis is basically winking at the absurdity of Trump worship in Republican primaries. We’ll see if he doubles down on MAGA sloganeering in the general election, when hugging Trump will carry considerably more risk than it does right now.