In a press conference bristling with hubris on the day after the midterms, a cocky Joe Biden decided to weigh in on the potential Republican slate for the 2024 presidential election.
“It would be fun watching them take on each other,” said the president, smirking at the idea of predecessor Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vying to be the candidate who denies him a second term.
Biden was just making mischief.
But it is more likely now that the main event of the 2024 primary season will be the WWE cage match: Ron DeSavage vs. The MAGA King.
The red tsunami that engulfed Florida and propelled its young, energetic governor to a 20-point victory has made DeSantis a formidable contender should he choose to run, and the chants of “two more years” from supporters at his victory party in Tampa Tuesday night underscored his ambitions.
Two hundred miles east, at former President Trump’s Palm Beach mansion Mar-a-Lago resort, supporters had arrived to celebrate what turned out to be a less-than- stellar night for the most Trump-aligned candidates — including one who lost to a recent stroke victim who struggled with basic comprehension and speech.
To be fair, Democrats in Pennsylvania also voted for a deceased candidate.
As it turned out, Arizona’s sluggish returns started coming in good for Trump’s picks Wednesday with a late afternoon surge for Republicans propelling Abe Hamadeh, the candidate for attorney general, into the lead and bringing gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake to within 0.2 percent of Democrat Katie Hobbs, while Senate candidate Blake Masters also was gaining ground in a race too early to call Wednesday night.
In fact, if it weren’t for the exaggerated predictions of a red wave whipped up by wily Democrats to scare their voters, the Republicans had a good night. A clarifying night. A night that puts a lid on any bubbling hubris, especially with a runoff in Georgia requiring extreme self-discipline for another month.
The somber times in which we live do not call for champagne and dancing. Nor for what White House press secretary-turned-MSNBC commentator Jen Psaki described as the mood in the White House Tuesday night: “Giddy and gleeful.”
But Republicans still can count the blessings entrusted to them by the American people for them to use wisely.
They won back the House, for starters, and that stops Biden’s agenda dead in its tracks. No more Nancy Pelosi waving her hands around and calling the shots.
There will be a slew of new GOP governors who can model DeSantis’ managerial competence and unapologetic anti-woke stance to win over constituencies for 2024. There will be energetic new members coming into Congress — including via New York’s local red wave that owes much to Lee Zeldin, even though he just fell short himself, despite winning more votes than any GOP gubernatorial candidate in more than half a century.
The Senate either remains unchanged in its 50-50 configuration, effectively in Democratic control, or the GOP gets a one-seat advantage if the runoff in Georgia goes their way.
Republicans won’t have so much power that they get cocky or can be held accountable for the economic pain to come.
But they have just enough power to save America from the worst excesses of this administration and enough time to prepare an optimal playing field for 2024.
Biden made it clear in his press conference that he is not going to change a thing, despite 75% of voters saying the country is headed in the wrong direction.
“It’s a good day for democracy,” he crowed. “We’re on the right path.”
So Democrats are stuck with a deeply unpopular president who tells us he plans to run for a second term in 2024, at the age of 81.
Which brings us to DeSavage vs. The MAGA King.
Last week, the word in Florida was that DeSantis was going to sit out 2024.
He’s only 44, went the thinking, and has plenty of time to run in 2028. But Trump wasn’t buying it. Donald would bring sheafs of polls to dinners at his Bedminster golf club through the summer to show friends how easily he would beat DeSantis in a hypothetical matchup if the younger man had the gall to challenge him.
By September, Trump had come up with a mean nickname and complained to anyone who would listen that he had endorsed DeSantis for his first run for governor in 2018, when he was “nobody.”
Then Saturday night at a Pennsylvania rally, just three days before the midterms, Trump launched an attack on “Ron DeSanctimonious” and later used an interview to threaten his putative rival: “If he did run, I will tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering. I know more about him than anybody other than perhaps his wife, who is really running his campaign.”
Trump’s detractors say it is a sign of his fatal ill-discipline that he inserted himself into the last days of the campaign, reminding wavering independents or Dems why they didn’t vote for him in 2020.
But Trump clearly didn’t care. He wants to goad DeSantis into running. Don has said he relishes the prospect of fighting a big stable of GOP candidates in 2024 in a knock-down, drag-out WWE spectacular. Send in your best prize fighter, Mitch McConnell, and The MAGA King will best him.
That might freak out the establishment, but really, it’s the only way to resolve the party’s “Trump problem.”
In nature, the young alpha buck always challenges the old dominant buck for territory and breeding rights.
Human politics is just as primal. Trump has laid claim to a good portion of the Republican base. They are not limpets but humans, and they understand the law of the jungle as well as anyone.
DeSantis has shown strategic common sense, courage and a thick hide in his various battles as governor. If you were choosing a WWE fighter, he easily is a match for Trump, who will be 78 at the next presidential election.
And if DeSantis sits on the sidelines, maybe he doesn’t have what it takes to be president in hard times. In politics, you don’t have the luxury of choosing your moment and 2028 may not suit him.
But if DeSantis does take on Trump and wins, he will be invincible in 2024.