The point of this Washington Post article is to hammer home just how much Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential bid has faltered now that America has spent more time learning who he is. But this is the takeaway quote from an allegedly moderate New Hampshire Republican who doesn’t like the pro-DeSantis ads bragging about his proposal that law enforcement be allowed to execute people crossing the southern border:
“I don’t like the fact that we’re going to start murdering people,” said Becki Kuhns, 71, who is eager for an alternative to Donald Trump and brought up the commercials unprompted.
You can see why Kuhns was introduced as one of the “moderate” Republicans. (Expresses disapproval at executing border crossers? We’re gonna put you down as moderate on this one.) We can presume from Kuhns’ not-Trump stance that she’s also not a fan of conspiracies to overthrow the government, but as always, the “moderate” position is that while an attempted coup backed by over half of House Republicans is Not Good, it’s also not a big enough deal to leave the party over.
The Post uses Kuhns’ quote as a demonstration of the dilemma DeSantis finds himself in now that he’s spent his governorship lurching further and further rightward. DeSantis did all of it in an attempt to scrape Donald Trump’s supporters away from him under the general premise that not even the current Republican base would want a fraud-doing, national security-damaging, coup-plotting petty thug as their leader.
But as it turns out, a plurality of the Republican base wants that very damn much. DeSantis may be promising mass murder and the elimination of “wokeness” in government, education, and all of capitalism, but the MAGA base can get all of that and a four-time indictee who spends his free time stoking threats against court officials, politicians, and whoever else crosses his path. DeSantis went hard-line right, and now he has nothing to show for it but a reputation as the “start murdering people” guy.
The pro-sedition right has had no reason to even look in his direction. The sedition-agnostic but generally anti-summary executions crowd, while smaller, has reason to look anywhere else.
The media appears eager to boost former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley as a major Trump alternative, with the Post noting that she and DeSantis are evenly matched in the latest Iowa polling. But by “evenly matched,” they mean Haley and DeSantis each manage to scrape up a humiliating 16%, while Trump claims 43%. Put both candidates together and they still wouldn’t come close to toppling him.
Neither DeSantis nor Haley appears eager to differentiate themselves from Trump on the issue that defines the entire race: whether Republicans ought to renominate a man who promoted a violent insurrection, among other alleged crimes, and who now faces 91 criminal counts. Not even former Vice President Mike Pence was willing to take a truly full-throated stance on whether or not Trump should have attempted to get Pence killed. Pence left the race this weekend rather than further press the point.
In the Republican presidential primary race, we’re still trundling on where we thought we’d be before any of these candidates formally announced. Trump is in a commanding lead despite, or perhaps because of, his claims he is more important than the rule of law itself. DeSantis continues to tank in the polls in direct proportion to how much voters hear him talk. Haley and the others are simply around, making no solid case for themselves while refusing to take Trump on out of fear of his possible violence-baiting response.
If Trump’s supposed competitors aren’t willing to make the case that 91 felony counts ought to disqualify someone from a second go at public office, then what purpose do they serve?