Dull DeSantis Can't Beat Trump -- But Maybe Colorful Christie Can
The sane world agrees. You don't get more bizarre than Ron DeSantis' latest foray into culture war lunacy. We speak of that campaign video that bashes gay America while flashing a picture of Brad Pitt as a hunky Achilles.
What homophobic crackhead made this ad? The Florida governor recalls Herbert Lom in The Pink Panther movie, where as an Inspector Dreyfus gone mad, he's seen banging angrily on a piano in a mental institution.
DeSantis clearly seems to be trying to get to the right of Donald Trump. But Trump doesn't look to his right as much as to his audience. He commands a big chunk of the Republican party by constantly entertaining it. The only other Republican who can also put on a show is, ironically, the most forceful Trump critic vying for the Republican nomination. He is former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Say what you want about Trump. He would sell Alaska to Vladimir Putin, and throw in our nuclear secrets. He'd tell his deplorables that Gatorade better prevents polio than the vaccine. As long as he can deliver a lively line, he's got his base.
But Christie can also deliver a line. True, his poll numbers remain in the single digits, but they're going up while DeSantis' are falling. A recent New Hampshire poll puts Christie third among registered voters. His six percent is creeping up on DeSantis' 19 percent.
What Trump has and Christie has but DeSantis has none of is a sense of humor. Perpetually beating up on Disney is political strangeness personified. Sending his wife Casey out to "humanize" DeSantis is not going to work. A former TV personality in tight party dresses and stiletto heels seems an imperfect spokeswoman for "mamas" in Iowa.
DeSantis wants to sell himself to caucusgoers in Iowa as the anti-gay, anti-abortion upholder of the faith. But if the Republicans of Iowa — and MAGA country in general — wanted a real Christian, they'd be filling auditoriums for Mike Pence. Instead they lie prostrate at the feet of the Golden Calf from Manhattan, an adulterer who cheated on his third wife.
Like Trump, Christie is out there. Though he's from New Jersey, he plays the part of a New Yorker with an outer borough accent. Christie is the only challenger to blast at Trump with a left hook, although Asa Hutchinson deserves credit for saying in his gentle Southern style that Trump is not fit to be president.
One of Trump's main appeals to followers is that he seems to say what he thinks, even the outrageous stuff. Much of what comes out of his mouth is ignorant sewage, but to many it sounds like honesty because of the tough-guy persona. In 2016, Trump famously went for the jugulars of other Republicans running for the nomination. Christie knows where his opponents' neck veins are.
Christie is also colorful and good on TV. That means TV is going to give him more airtime. It was Trump's television persona, after all, that made him a national figure able to win the 2016 nomination in a race against top-drawer Republican figures.
The other Republican candidates are mostly scaredy-cats, trying to replace Trump without saying "mean" things about him. As for policy positions, it's hard to see how DeSantis is going to wow Iowa with his abortion ban. Even Kansas wouldn't go there.
It's interesting that conservative Peggy Noonan recently wrote in her Wall Street Journal column, "Chris Christie could easily defeat Joe Biden."
I'd like to think that it would not be easy for anyone to beat Biden, given his pile of successes and a strong economy. But Christie could possibly do it. DeSantis could not.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at email@example.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.
Reprinted with permission from Creators.