The DeSantis "knockout blow" for Trump?

AP Photo/Gaston De Cardenas

We’re still more than a year away from when the first votes will be cast in the 2024 presidential primary, but that’s not stopping the punditocracy from launching into the speculation game. One of the early contestants in this game is Matt Lewis, a never-Trumper writing at the Daily Beast. This week, Matt is peering into the tea leaves and has determined that two of the early potential contestants who may have a chance at derailing Donald Trump’s chances for a second term are Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Neither of these are shocking choices, and both have previously expressed an interest in running for the top job.

Advertisement

But Matt questions whether either of them will have the spine to launch sustained attacks against the former president. If they do, however, he believes that DeSantis may have an ace up his sleeve, and it comes in the form of Trump’s diehard support for the COVID vaccines developed through his Operation Warp Speed in 2020.

The case for nominating DeSantis is precisely that he’s just as tough and “MAGA” as Trump—but more competent. In addition to this, DeSantis has a specific opening, too: “I think the blood-in-the-water knockout blow is the vaccines,” former conservative radio host John Ziegler told me recently, “because Trump is so deluded into believing that the vaccines—because he wants to take credit for them—were the greatest thing ever. That’s where, with way more than 50 percent of the Republican base, DeSantis can strike a knockout blow.”

In a rational world, Operation Warp Speed would be something worth bragging about. But the Republican primary electorate isn’t a rational world. As such, greenlighting the COVID-19 vaccine is potentially a serious vulnerability for Trump in a Republican primary. Meanwhile, DeSantis—who wants to empanel a grand jury to look into COVID-19 wrongdoing—is positioned to lodge such an attack. But will he?

Advertisement

I’m not going to argue with Matt over the vaccine angle. While he regrettably describes Operation Warp Speed as “something worth bragging about,” Donald Trump appears to be failing to read the room on this. Back in the early days of 2020, the novel coronavirus was a frightening monster that we knew little about. There was no question that something needed to be done and a massive government push to develop a workable vaccine as rapidly as possible absolutely made sense. In the context of the moment, Donald Trump certainly made the right call.

But today we are looking a the results in hindsight and we all know how that worked out. An increasing number of people, particularly among Republicans and independents, are distrustful of the resultant COVID vaccines, and for good reason. Offering Big Pharma not only an unlimited flow of taxpayer dollars but also blanket immunity from consequences if and when the vaccines caused harm to people is also being seen in a much darker light. And making the vaccines quickly “available” was admirable (while we were still largely ignorant about them and the lack of testing that took place before their accelerated approval), but making them “mandatory” turned out to be politically toxic. Yes, Trump was responsible for the former while Joe Biden carries the burden for the latter, but the effects will still wash over a bit onto the Bad Orange Man.

Advertisement

The question now, as Matt Lewis poses it, is whether Ron DeSantis will publicly hit Trump on the vaccine question. He has no fear of criticizing the vaccines and is even working on an investigation into how the vaccine development process may have caused harm. But will he begin making public statements tying Donald Trump directly to the jabs? Thus far he hasn’t shown any appetite for the idea.

Matt also talks about the possibility of Nikki Haley finding some avenue of attack against Trump. That seems even less likely than seeing Ron DeSantis do it. Matt describes Haley as “the “Goldilocks” candidate, who has just the right amount of sugar and spice mixed in her MAGA.” Personally, I think Haley would be smart to let DeSantis bloody himself up in the ring with Trump while she offers herself as the more reasonable alternative who won’t gin up the Democratic base the way that Trump does. (Full disclosure: I have a “Nikki 2024” ballcap on my coat rack that I bought at CPAC in 2020. I still think she brings a lot to the table if she runs.)

I’ll close with something that I put up on Twitter this morning in response to Matt Lewis when he tweeted a link to his article. There is no predetermined candidate and there shouldn’t be. The primary voters deserve a choice. Everyone who wants to run deserves a chance to make their case. Trump is not the president and should have to compete like anyone else. At least for me, it’s really just that simple.

Advertisement

Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on HotAir Videos

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
David Strom 5:00 PM | May 23, 2024
Advertisement