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Politics : A Real American President: Ron DeSantis
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From: Joachim K11/10/2022 10:38:53 AM
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Why some Republicans think Ron DeSantis is the future of the party

Political commentator Scott Jennings says the Florida governor is the 1st viable alternative to Trump

Sheena Goodyear · CBC Radio · Posted: Nov 09, 2022 4:45 PM ET | Last Updated: November 9

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives a victory speech after defeating Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Charlie Crist during his election night watch party at the Tampa Convention Center on Tuesday. (Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

As It Happens 6:39

Why some Republicans think Ron DeSantis is the future of the party

Ron DeSantis' landslide victory in Florida has many conservative media outlets and political pundits crowning him the future leader of the U.S. Republican Party.

The Florida governor won his second consecutive victory in the state in Tuesday's U.S. midterm elections, with a 20-point lead over Democratic rival Charlie Crist.

It's an impressive feat in what used to be considered a swing state, says Scott Jennings, a CNN political commentator and a Republican who has worked for former U.S. president George W. Bush and Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Jennings spoke to As It Happens host Nil Köksal about how DeSantis compares to former U.S. president Donald Trump, and what his success means for the Republicans nationally. Here is part of their conversation.

As you well know, some were predicting a wipeout for the Democrats, a Republican red wave. In the end, it didn't come to be. So, if not a red wave, what words would you use to describe what happened last night?

It's not an "all is lost" moment, but … as I look at the results, I'm just looking at all these independent voters who were sour on [Democratic U.S. President Joe] Biden, sour on the economy, sour on the direction of the country, really unsure about things. And yet they stuck with the Democrats because, I think, the Republican brand being associated with Donald Trump is still too much for them.

This is the lesson I think that Republicans need to learn. We have a Trump problem.

Is Ron DeSantis the solution to that problem, in your view?

I don't think Donald Trump has ever been weaker than he is right now amongst Republicans who wholeheartedly supported him and voted for him twice. I think DeSantis has never been hotter.

And I think in politics, when someone is weak, you have to move on it, because they can recover. We've seen this with Trump. He was weak on January 6th. Everybody knew he had done wrong. He'd never been weaker in his life as he was at that moment. And yet the party let him off the hook.

And now the difference is there's someone to fill the breach. There's someone to step forward in a leadership role and move the party beyond Trump.

Before, the problem was it wasn't clear who was going to, you know, push Trump or lead the party in a new direction. So he just recovered and filled the void himself.

Now, Ron DeSantis has never been in a better position to tell the Republican Party that the American people have spoken. They tell us we have a branding problem. The brand is Trump. And I'm here to tell you, a new marketing department will be installed in short order. Stay tuned.

If I were him, that is the message I would deliver. And he's got the credibility and the results to back it up.

Scott Jennings, a CNN political commentator and Republican campaign adviser, says DeSantis is the future of the party. (Rogelio V. Solis/The Associated Press)

I'm wondering if you think the party will actually listen. There was an interesting piece from David Frum today in the Atlantic, and he writes in it, "For seven years, Donald Trump's superpower has been the abjectness of his fellow Republicans." So do you think Republicans are actually going to be willing to jump ship now?

Like I said, I think one of the reasons he always was able to recover in his weakest moments is because it was never clear who else there was to lead the party. Now there is an alternative, and it's an alternative named Ron DeSantis, who has a national profile, who's built up a lot of goodwill with Republican donors and grassroots, alike.

Beyond all that, Florida has become the model of governance that Republicans want to apply to the rest of the country. It used to be Texas, to some degree. We always looked at Texas as, you know, kind of the Republican capital of America. Now it's Florida … and that's largely because of what DeSantis has done.

You look at his results last night amongst Hispanics. You look at what he did in Miami-Dade. You look at the white-collar suburban areas of Florida. You look at the rural panhandle. The DeSantis coalition is so broad.

That's what Trump has never been able to do. He's always been so limited because there are just certain parts of the Republican coalition he can't reach. But DeSantis apparently can reach and combine them all.

If you want to win a national election, that's what you have to do. We haven't won the popular vote since 2004, when George W. Bush put a similar kind of coalition together. It feels like DeSantis has the instincts to do it, and Trump seems to be too limited to pull it off.

DeSantis, his wife Casey DeSantis, and their children walk on stage to celebrate victory. (Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

He's also the person, the leader, who sent asylum seekers to Martha's Vineyard under what appears to be false pretences. So how did that play into — or not play into — what we saw last night?

You tell me. He won by 20 points. And he won an overwhelming number of Hispanics. You look at the shift in Hispanic voters up and down the board from 2020 to 2022. I mean, it is seismic in what it means for Florida politics and what it could mean for the national Republican Party.

So I think DeSantis has, right now, the best instincts in the Republican Party about what to do and when to do it. Again, he's not a flashy showman. You know, he's not a TV personality. He's not a pundit. But he is a leader. And his instincts are just proven again, time and again, to be really good.


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Beyond Florida, what do you think Ron DeSantis is offering voters across the country? And what would the Republican Party look like with him as leader?

I think what he's offering them is a new generation of leadership. I mean, I think the one thing Americans generally don't want is a rematch between Biden and Trump. In fact, I don't know a single person that wants a rematch, other than Trump and Biden.

So the first thing he offers to the Republican Party is a new generation of leadership. He does give you a lot of the aggressiveness, the fight, that you get out of Trump. But he also gives you self-control, and he gives you competence in governance. And he takes a lot of the drama out of politics.

Another thing that DeSantis offered the Republican Party is he travelled all over the country campaigning for people and never really talked about himself or talked about his future ambitions. He just campaigned for whoever was on the stage with him.

Trump, on the other hand, made the campaign stops he made about himself — you know, attacking DeSantis at one, teasing a presidential campaign at another, showing up in Pennsylvania, where his presence was clearly not helpful.

Trump is mostly a selfish political entity. But DeSantis proved to be a team player.

Interview produced by Kate Swoger. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.
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