There’s good reason why Gov. Ron DeSantis could never hope to compete with Donald Trump in the 2024 presidential GOP primary, even in his home state. It’s not just that he eats his pudding with three fingers when two fingers is clearly de rigueur. Or that he’s failed to connect with voters, despite numerous attempts to wrap his preternaturally viscous eye stalks around their pitiful human brain stems. But his fatal flaw? He didn’t have the foresight to become the infallible leader of a death cult whose members would take a bullet for Trump’s GrubHub driver.
Now DeSantis is finding out exactly where his own state party’s loyalties really lie. And the answer is: with that other Florida Man. On Friday, Florida Republicans voted to nix a loyalty oath that had bound all GOP presidential primary candidates to support the eventual nominee or be dropped from the March 19 ballot. The vote marked “a major victory for former President Donald Trump and a stinging defeat for Gov. Ron DeSantis in his home state,” according to the Orlando Sentinel’s story on the decision.
The move is significant because Trump has so far refused to endorse anyone whose skin is darker than Burnt Sienna or whiter than Terra Cotta, and were he to somehow lose the primary, he’d almost certainly take his magnificently tanned balls and go home.
And, worryingly for DeSantis, the vote wasn’t remotely close, with the DeSantis campaign’s preferred outcome all but getting bashed in the face with a flagpole.
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Former state GOP chair Joe Gruters, a Trump supporter and frequent DeSantis critic who had called for the vote to rescind the pledge requirement, said afterward his measure passed with just two or three no votes out of 39 cast.
“At the end of the day, this is a win for President Trump and for all candidates that want to qualify without having to potentially endorse somebody that you don’t like,” Gruters said.
Gruters said the state party’s decision in May to add the loyalty pledge for candidates as a requirement to appear on the March presidential primary ballot violated the national GOP’s rules barring changes to the nominating process within two years of an election.
Meanwhile, SETI picked up a transmission from the DeSantis campaign excoriating the decision.
“We believe anyone who wanted to run for president as a Republican should be willing to pledge their support for our eventual nominee,” DeSantis campaign spokesperson Bryan Griffin told NBC News. “It is surprising that anyone interested in seeing the defeat of Joe Biden in 2024 would disagree.”
Yeah, well, a lot of things are surprising these days, Bryan. Welcome to the Perpetually Gobsmacked Club.
Of course, the chance that Trump would ever sign such a loyalty pledge was always as remote as the possibility that he’d adhere to a loyalty pledge if he lost. Do Republicans actually still believe Trump has loyalty to anyone or anything? He’d kick his own son Eric down a well in a New York nanosecond if he saw an unclaimed ham sandwich on the ground in front of him.
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That said, the vote may have come down, in part, to which rampaging cocaine bear Florida Republicans thought it would be safer to shoot in the face.
Trump and DeSantis are the most powerful Republicans in Florida, upping the stakes for party members who dare cross them or even fail to offer a full-throated endorsement. Some risk seeing their political aspirations fall apart by voting for or against the pledge, while others open themselves up to seeing prized policy goals perish.
Both men have demonstrated punitive streaks. Trump has aggressively primaried his critics or called them out in deeply sardonic and personal terms on social media, while the governor has demonstrated he’s unafraid to veto legislative spending priorities even by members of his own party — or to take actions such as suspending liberal prosecutors or doubling down on a dispute with Walt Disney World.
And we can’t forget the kid gloves Republicans use on the red-hats. According to POLITICO, the former state GOP chair, Gruters, also “warned that if the change had not been made, it would be detrimental to the Florida party because Trump supporters would be upset—adding that ‘the Republican Party of Florida would cease to exist.’”
Golly, can’t have that!
Of course, while DeSantis’ flailing campaign was clearly irked at the outcome of the vote, it may be moot anyway, as Trump continues to shamble his way to a third straight GOP presidential nom with the help of his lockstep zombie horde.
A recent Quinnipiac poll reveals that Trump has widened his lead over DeSantis and the rest of the primary field. He garnered 62% support among Republican and Republican-leading voters in the poll, compared to 57% in August, while DeSantis’ support cratered from 18% in August to just 12% now.
Perhaps Florida Republicans can read the ketchup on the wall and are already jostling for positions in Trump’s Thousand-Year Reich™, brought to you by Pepperidge Farm Old-Time Country Snackin’ Lard.
Or maybe it’s simply that Trump is a seasoned cult leader and DeSantis isn’t.
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As CNN reporter Kate Sullivan recently discovered in a piece on Trump’s growing legal peril, nothing will—or even could—put a dent in their (in)famous resolve.
“He’s probably guilty, but it doesn’t matter,” said Jace Kirschenman, an 18-year-old in South Dakota who works in construction.
He said nothing could deter him from voting for Trump next year.
“You show me a perfect person in this world, and I’ll show you a blue pig with wings,” said Corey Shawgo, a 34-year-old truck driver in Pennsylvania who attended Trump’s rally in Erie. “Everyone makes mistakes.”
Right. Who hasn’t accidentally tried to steal an election or hidden highly sensitive government secrets for months from their legitimate owners? DeSantis better hope no more indictments drop in connection with Trump’s (allegedly!) illegal behavior.
Because if that happens, he’ll really be sunk.
Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.