Trust me, a presidential candidate never wants to read these words: “In his third staff shakeup in less than a month…”
But that’s what Florida Governor Ron DeSantis woke up to on Tuesday. After he laid off about 40 percent of his campaign staff, officials insisted manager Generra Peck was secure. On Monday night he replaced her with his chief of staff in the governor’s office, the young, loyal, and conservative James Uthmeier, who has zero campaign experience. But he once was a senior adviser to Donald Trump’s dynamic commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross. Don’t call it a “reboot,” though. It’s apparently a “reload,” a word I’m sure they like for all the reloading gun GIFs.
The staffing move comes after DeSantis’s boldest gambit yet: telling NBC’s Dasha Burns that President Joe Biden is currently the president. (You know, the question asked of people with serious head injuries.) The answer came only after some trademark bizarro DeSantis flourishes when Burns asked him if Trump lost in 2020.
First he tried: “Whoever puts their hand on the Bible on January 20 every four years is the winner.” (Hmm. Remember that on January 20, 2025, everyone!)
Burns pushed back: “But, respectfully, you did not clearly answer that question,” Burns said. “And if you can’t give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on whether or not he lost—”
“No, of course he lost,” DeSantis said. That’s when he said the words that may be his ultimate undoing: “Joe Biden’s the president.”
I love the written word, but DeSantis’s comment on Trump’s loss has to be seen to be appreciated. Those trademark bizarro facial expressions! Video here.
Meanwhile, The Bulwark’s Tim Miller did what I refuse to do (thanks, Tim!): trail Ron around Iowa. I have trailed many a candidate around Iowa (Hey, John Edwards! Remember me, Ted Cruz? I treasure the time I spent with Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, but it was a lot of driving.) Miller encountered a very sad state of affairs: Ron-mentum was nonexistent in Iowa. As is clear even from the cable news coverage of his rallies, Ron’s crowds were sometimes in the tens, not the hundreds, let alone the thousands.
And yet, Miller sees him, and other Republicans who are polling even lower than DeSantis, going the distance. As he puts it: “Let’s be honest, after getting schlonged by a man under multiple federal indictments in the first few contests, the remaining candidates might figure there’s no point in getting out to preserve dignity that, by that point, would be long gone.”
One slight pushback to Miller’s take. All of their dignity is long gone. Especially former Vice President Mike Pence’s. Trump’s shock troops wanted to hang him. Former New Jersey governor and 2016 candidate Chris Christie is a tough guy now but endorsed Trump as soon as he quit that race. Dignity? Gone. And DeSantis was a cupcake after Trump’s January 6–related arraignment: “Washington, D.C. is a ‘swamp’ and it is unfair to have to stand trial before a jury that is reflective of the swamp mentality,” DeSantis wrote on Twitter earlier this month. “One of the reasons our country is in decline is the politicization of the rule of law. No more excuses—I will end the weaponization of the federal government.”
A week later, with his donors in retreat, DeSantis found it possible to say Trump lost.
Meanwhile, Ron continues to sink in the polls. Morning Consult has him 43 points behind Trump on Tuesday, at a shriveling 16 percent. (Pence is at 6 percent.) Sometimes I think I’m writing about DeSantis too much, and then I realize I might be losing my chance to write about DeSantis, as a national figure, at all. And while he remains so loathsome, in terms of his attacks on women, LGBTQ people, great authors, and the minds of children, I feel like I’ve got to get my thoughts in order. The idea that he could be president helped fuel his landslide reelection last year.
Once we chase him back to Florida, we can figure out how to defeat him there.