Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is focusing his star power where it counts.
Arguably the second-most-popular Republican in national politics behind former President Donald Trump, DeSantis will be popping up at swing-state rallies for candidates Trump supported in hard-fought GOP primaries around the country.
And crushing at least one hope of the left for a splintering in the Republican Party prior to the November midterms.
The series of rallies is being hosted by the conservative group Turning Point Action under the slogan “Unite and Win,” according to Fox News.
That might come across as the sort of campaign pablum that bubbles up in every political season, but it’s got a special meaning when it involves DeSantis – a rising star in GOP politics by any sane measure – and Trump, the dominant GOP figure of a generation.
There is little liberals could hope for more than an open schism between Trump and DeSantis (and there are more than a few disgruntled voices on the right who wouldn’t mind seeing the same).
But DeSantis joining forces with Trump in some of the same battleground states that could have – and should have — made Trump president for a second term in the 2020 election sends an unmistakable message that a GOP civil war isn’t in the cards for 2022.
“Gov. DeSantis is America’s governor and one of the most popular leaders in America,” said Charlie Kirk, founder and president of Turning Point Action, according to Fox News. “He has become the model for a new conservative movement that is willing to stand on principle and to actually fight on behalf of the values of his voters.”
The candidates DeSantis is supporting so far, as identified by Fox, are: Doug Mastriano, a Pennsylvania state senator seeking the governor’s office in the Keystone State; author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance, who’s running for the U.S. Senate in Ohio; U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, seeking re-election in New Mexico; venture capitalist Blake Masters, running for the U.S. Senate in Arizona; and former television journalist Kari Lake, seeking the governor’s office in Arizona.
It’s unclear whether that list is final, but it raises at least one intriguing question. In addition to Mastriano’s run for governor, Trump endorsed Dr. Mehmet Oz for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, yet DeSantis isn’t listed as appearing on his behalf. Oz has apparently distanced himself from Trump since his squeaky-close primary win, so is he not seeking DeSantis’ support? Was DeSantis not interested in supporting Oz? Was it an issue of scheduling?
Those questions could decide the fate of the evenly divided U.S. Senate, where Democrats hold power solely because of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote. But if Oz is trying to win Pennsylvania without the kinds of voters who support Trump and/or DeSantis, Democrats can practically put that one in their column now.
DeSantis’ time will be limited, of course, since he is fighting for his own re-election in the Sunshine State, where his Democratic opponent will depend on the outcome of Florida’s Aug. 23 primary. (State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a former governor – and former Republican — are the top two contenders there.)
But he’s clearly going to be useful to fellow Republicans as the midterms approach. And being useful under a campaign headed “Unite to Win” is sending a clear signal to conservatives and Republicans around the country about what it’s going to take to win back power in Congress – in the House, the Senate or both.
The midterms are the springboard to taking back the White House in 2024, and both parties and their voters know it.
This is going to be disappointing to some on the right, of course. It’s no secret that there are NeverTrumpers who are hoping to see DeSantis eclipse Trump’s light.
National Review, for instance, the conservative publication that devoted an entire issue in January 2016 to trying to deny Trump the GOP nomination in 2016 and hasn’t changed its opinion since, managed to write and headline an article on Monday about DeSantis’ plans to support Trump-backed candidates without mentioning Trump’s name until the sixth paragraph – the second sentence of the sixth paragraph.
But it’s going to be much more disappointing to the Democratic Party and its cheerleaders in the mainstream media, which loath DeSantis as much as they do Trump – if that’s possible – but would be overjoyed to see the two biggest names in GOP politics at each other’s throats heading into an election where Democrats richly deserve to be thrown out on their ears.
For them, a GOP banner of “Unite to Win,” specifically including DeSantis and Trump-backed candidates, is a nightmare come true.
Nothing is eternal on this Earth, of course, and nothing is eternal in politics. So what the future holds, it holds.
But for this campaign season, at least, it appears the Republican base will have the united front it needs going against an entrenched Democratic Party backed by the mainstream media and overwhelming support in culture, academia and big, woke business.
Right now, these are the battles that count, and DeSantis is putting himself right in the middle of them.