The fantasy of a Trump-slaying Republican

To see why, let’s imagine how the early stages of the contest would unfold. Trump, DeSantis, Pence, and the others are standing together on a debate stage in the fall of 2023. The moderator opens by addressing DeSantis: Donald Trump says the 2020 election was stolen from him and that Joe Biden is an illegitimate president. Do you agree?

What exactly is DeSantis supposed to say in response? One option would be to answer truthfully — which is to say, in the negative: No, the election wasn’t stolen, and Biden won fair and square. But this would automatically place DeSantis on the opposite side of that 71 percent of Republicans and open him up to an onslaught of abuse from Trump himself. DeSantis would be labeled a cuck and a weakling who refuses to fight and would let the Democrats get away with murder from Day One of a DeSantis administration.

If, instead, DeSantis offered a tepid endorsement of the election fraud conspiracy, voters will be left to wonder why they should favor that second-best alternative over the man who was personally stabbed in the back and craves vengeance for himself and his party.