Without doubt, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is a viable, credible candidate for President of the United States – much more so than the other non-Trump candidates currently in the GOP primary field.
Nevertheless, the most recent Quinnipiac poll completed on May 22 shows Trump at 56% and DeSantis well behind at 25%. And the DeSantis roll-out last week likely won’t shrink that lead by much.
First, the official announcement was launched on Twitter Spaces with Twitter captain Elon Musk serving as moderator of the live chat.
Bold attempted use of new media – and interesting in that Trump hasn’t come back to Twitter since his ban was lifted and instead is “tweeting” on his own social media channel, “Truth Social.”
But the danger in using new technologies is the ever-present risk of technical difficulties – which haunted DeSantis’ interview/announcement with Musk.
The DeSantis camp is trying to spin that as an indication of the high level of support and enthusiasm the Florida chief executive enjoys. But that dog won’t hunt.
Phil Klein of National Review – anything but a Trump fan – characterized the rollout as a “disaster.” The damage is done. You only get one chance to make a good first impression and the impression left here was “not ready for prime time.”
The rollout video was just as bad. DeSantis didn’t speak the way the average speaker speaks around the dinner table – which Trump is a master at. Instead, it was DC-speak…
“Righting the ship requires restoring sanity to our society, normalcy to our communities, and integrity to our institutions.”
What average voter talks like that?
Now compare that to the way Trump communicates with the Average Joe…
“Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans, or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists, agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens.”
Words mean stuff. It’s not the media. It’s the message.
Then there was the background in the rollout video – a giant American flag.
It was great in 1971 for George C. Scott in the opening scene of the movie “Patton,” but it just came off to me as cookie-cutter without much thought. A far cry from the staging masterpieces engineered by image guru Michael Deaver for Ronald Reagan.
And as political consultant Greg Hale noted…
“[P]eople need to see and feel the energy. You can’t connect without imagery. Yeah, the world is changing, but we still need to visualize, experience and feel the excitement.”
Then there’s the tagline: “The Great American Comeback.”
Sounds like a pale riff on Trump’s “Make America Great Again.” I guess if imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery, it’s very flattering. But I don’t see TGAC gaining the same public traction as MAGA.
In defending DeSantis’ decidedly less-than-awesome rollout afterwards, pundit A.G. Hamilton said…
“DeSantis has been talking about detailed and substantive policy issues for the last hour. … If people want idiocracy and entertainment, Trump might be the better option. If you want substance on the right, DeSantis is it.”
This is what you get when your advisers are deeply ingrained in politics rather than marketing. Every professional marketer knows that raw emotion trumps, so to speak, intellectual arguments.
Too many people, especially independents, vote with their hearts, not their heads. Wish it was otherwise. But it’s not.
The DeSantis rollout arrived with a pop, not a bang. But there’s still time to recover.
It’s another eight long months before the first primary contest.
However, to beat Trump, Team DeSantis is going to have to do some things radically different – especially getting better messaging advisers. Running the same kind of traditional campaign as Romney and McCain ain’t gonna get the job done.
I’m not yet convinced that Trump can win the general election. On the other hand, I’m also not yet convinced DeSantis can win the primary.
Dr. Chuck Muth, PsD
THE CAMPAIGN DOCTOR
Professor of Psephology*
* Psephology (see-FOLLOW-gee): The study of campaigns and elections