Column: Shooting the Starting Pistol at Ron DeSantis

Presidential campaigns always start too early, at least in the media. You might hear the starting pistol and see it’s being shot at Ron DeSantis.

For example, New York Times opinion writer Frank Bruni wrote a piece describing DeSantis as an “optical illusion,” that “geyser of gibberish” Elon Musk seems fond of him. “Magnates like Musk typically cling to the moment’s shiniest toys, and DeSantis, fresh off his re-election, is a curiously gleaming action figure.”

Bruni’s spitting nails at the idea that Musk could find him “sensible and centrist.” He used italics to ask “In what universe?” Conservatives wouldn’t find him one bit appealing if he was “centrist” like blue-state Gov. Larry Hogan. But liberal journalists have tried to paint pretty much every Democrat nominee since Jimmy Carter as a “centrist.” If that’s not silly enough, they try to portray their own media outlets as sensibly centrist. Don Lemon thinks CNN’s never been liberal.

Another ranting liberal is Mark Leibovich at The Atlantic, whose idea of ruining DeSantis is to insist he’s not fun at parties, that he’s a stiff, awkward guy. He found Republicans to offer colorful quotes like “My sense is that Trump would gut DeSantis with a dull deer antler.” He concluded “Republicans who want to save the party from Trump are investing great hope in a blank slate.”

Somehow DeSantis is Jeb Bush, waiting to happen.

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe hootenanny – which is never sensibly centrist — Leibovich added DeSantis holds press conferences and “loves attacking the media, especially younger women reporters.” He’s apparently a sexist, which might appeal to Republicans, who are trying “to find the better bully.” This requires rebuttals:

1. Liberals like Leibovich sees Republicans “attacking reporters,” and never acknowledge that reporters are attacking Republicans at press conferences. One memorable attacker was Sharyn Alfonsi of CBS in 2021, working up a hit piece for 60 Minutes. Alfonsi is 50, and hopefully wouldn’t want Leibovich to treat her like she’s defenseless Princess Peach in a pink gown.

2. Reporters have a very sensitive definition of being “attacked.” Alfonsi, for example, was browbeating DeSantis with the conspiracy theory that he took $100,000 in donations from people at the Publix supermarket chain and then hooked them up as a primary site for Covid vaccinations. It’s rude and sexist to call that a “fake narrative”? Even then-New York Times media columnist Ben Smith ruled CBS didn’t prove their case: “Broadcast TV remains worse than anyone else at just quickly admitting when they screwed up.”

3. Democrats aren’t typically “attacking reporters,” because reporters usually toss softballs, like then-New York Times man Jeff Zeleny asking Barack Obama what “enchanted” him about being president. Ten years ago, Leibovich penned a cotton-candy front-page piece in the Times headlined “Obama Seizes Chance to Score As an Everyman.” (Frank Bruni did not ask “In what universe?”)

Leibovich proclaimed “Obama’s team has proven effective in exploiting each gaffe” Mitt Romney made. On Twitter, he even kissed Obama strategist David Axelrod’s ring in response to one anti-Romney tweet: “You ate your Tweeties today, Axe. Impressed.”

It’s a fair point for Trump diehards to suggest that DeSantis is going to face an all-out national-media assault. But that’s true of any candidate who leads a Republican primary poll. In 2011, the national media ripped into every Republican who seemed like the front-runner, from Michele Bachmann to Rick Perry to Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, and then Romney.

Republican presidential contenders should never expect national reporters to be friendly to their campaigns, and neither should Republican voters expect that national reporters are interested in any other goal than keeping a Democrat in the White House.

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