Disloyalty or Pathos

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis walks across the stage during a commercial break in the NewsNation Republican Presidential Primary Debate at the University of Alabama Moody Music Hall on December 6, 2023 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In an edition of this newsletter last month, Ron DeSantis got a visit from the Ghost of Campaign Future. Today, he’s getting one from the Ghost of Campaign Present.

If you were the governor of Florida, how would you go about rebuilding your stature within the Republican Party?

“I’d do everything I could to win the Iowa caucus,” you might say, but DeSantis has tried that. For all of his effort, he trails by more than 30 points and stands a real chance of finishing third. Some of the people hired to knock doors for him in the state have reportedly confided to voters that they’re actually supporting Donald Trump. According to the New York Times, DeSantis’ own pollster has told confidants the governor’s inner circle has reached the stage of his 2024 campaign where they’re simply trying to “make the patient comfortable.”

Any chance of avoiding an electoral debacle this cycle has vanished. And so DeSantis and his advisers have a coldly rational decision to make: What can they do in 2024 to maximally rehabilitate his reputation among right-wing voters?

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