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Politics & Policy

Politico Swings and Misses at DeSantis in Today’s Playbook

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) speaks during CPAC in Orlando, Fla., February 26, 2021. (Joe Skipper/Reuters)

Today’s Politico Playbook breathlessly reports in the subject line: “Scarred DeSantis staffers form a support group.”

Here we go again.

Promising “a look at the leader of the People’s Republic of Florida as a boss” — one might think the comparison to North Korea and China would be a little heavy-handed for Politico’s editors, but one would evidently be wrong — the guardians of our democracy paint an unflattering portrait of Governor Ron DeSantis:

RON DESANTIS is looking ahead to reelection next year and quite possibly a 2024 bid for president — but he’s left behind a trail of former disgruntled staffers and has no long-standing political machine to mount a national campaign, DeSantis vets say.

We talked to a dozen or so onetime aides and consultants to the Florida governor, and they all said the same thing: DeSantis treats staff like expendable widgets. He largely relies on a brain trust of two: himself and his wife, CASEY DESANTIS, a former local TV journalist. Beyond that there are few, if any, “DeSantis people,” as far as political pros are concerned.

Yes, DeSantis recently hired highly regarded operative PHIL COX. But there’s no savant that he’s been through the trenches with, like a KARL ROVE or DAVID AXELROD — let alone an army of loyalists. That’s probably not fatal to his White House prospects, but it can’t help.

DeSantis, who’s yet to complete his first term as governor, does not yet have a strategist with the fame or track record of a Karl Rove or David Axelrod on his team. The horror! It’s easy to see why Playbook chose to make this, and not the disappointing job numbers released this morning or their relationship with Biden administration policy, the focus of today’s newsletter. Playbook goes on to detail a litany of grievances, including that “aides would lure DeSantis to staff meetings with cupcakes.”

Politico relied exclusively on anonymous sources described as “onetime” staffers in its reporting. GOP operative Patrick Hynes suggests that this appears to have been not-so-friendly fire from a fellow Republican, and there are a few breadcrumbs in the story suggesting that it may be attributable to a certain prominent Republican who calls Florida home, although that’s admittedly speculative.

In any case, it’s doubtful that Republican voters will be especially disturbed by a politician showing some ambivalence and even disdain for the political-consultant class. This is yet another swing-and-a-miss at the Florida governor and 2024 frontrunner.

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