The sudden collapse of Marco Rubio in 2016 carried an important lesson with it… and DeSantis’s Press Secretary seems to have missed that memo.
The lesson is, don’t undercut your brand.
Lessons from the Rubio flame-out of 2016
Trump and Christie have been trading insults like there’s no tomorrow. That combativeness is part of the brand. Nikki Haley, to some degree, has chosen that same lane.
So when one of those candidates make a savage attack on a rival, it’s chalked up to the mud-slinging brand of cutthroat politics they’ve embraced. Once those rivals are no longer in play, the are no longer ‘the enemy’, and even their criticisms can soften. It’s not even hypocrisy, in the usual sense. Even the personal attacks aren’t genuinely personal, they’re just politics.
But DeSantis and Vivek, like Rubio, played the other game. They mostly stuck to the high road in their campaigns. They were pitching a candidate that — even when fighting in the trenches — fought a clean fight and played honorably.
When Rubio tried to beat Chris Christie at his own game, it cost him credibility. When Rubio did that, he had to torch his own brand in the process. Suddenly, he was seen as the same kind of scumbag gutter-snipe as Christie. From that point on, Rubio was done.
That’s why this unforced error by the Press Secretary of Ron DeSantis so disastrous.
DeSantis campaign defining the brand
After Trump’s massive win in Iowa, the DeSantis campaign is fighting for its life to stay relevant. That takes carving out a lane to make himself the more credible MAGA candidate. He desperately needs what the marketing world calls a ‘Unique Selling Proposition’.
Some ‘thing’ that sets him apart as different from Trump. They found one. And promptly shot themselves in the foot over it by torching their ‘Mr. nice guy’ image by using it badly.
Trump and Haley have no interest in primary debates — each for their own reasons. DeSantis, who thrives in that environment, can claim his rivals are hiding from the voters.
Jeremy Redfern’s YUGE mistake
With a primary campaign that stands in danger of being condemned to irrelevance by next week’s voting, Team DeSantis is pushing hard to make its case that THEY are grassroots boots-on-the-ground, while the other candidates are just like Biden, running a ‘basement’ campaign.
Not the worst tactic someone in their position could run with, but the execution is everything. And boy oh boy did Redfern ever blow it on the execution.
The problem with that post, of course, was the timing.
When that tweet went out, Trump was NOT, in fact, ‘in his basement’…
When Redfern was called out on it, he didn’t soften his response to allow for the funeral. He ratcheted up the rhetoric.
Trump’s own senior advisor called Redfern out on that response:
It’s a bold strategy, Cotton, to double-down on attacking President Trump for attending his mother-in-law’s funeral today.
This will be addressed in the future in a much more pointed manner, but today is about honoring Mrs. Trump’s mother. https://t.co/qPtODRZvsr
— Jason Miller (@JasonMillerinDC) January 18, 2024
If Redfern was some internet rando flinging mud at the Trump campaign, nobody would care.
If Redfern was part of a super-pac that was allied with DeSantis — where DeSantis has no control over messaging and personnel, that wouldn’t affect DeSantis.
But Redfern is the Press Secretary of Ron DeSantis… whose brand is taking the high road.
Picking a fight with a guy for attending a funeral instead of hitting the campaign trail is ‘kick a guy while he’s down’ stuff. It might be par for the course in a Chris Christie campaign, but it is NOT what a ‘Mr. Principled Nice Guy’ would do in this situation.
It’s a bad look. One made worse by doubling down on it.
Doubling down and leveraging the Trump family funeral to highlight a perceived policy failure looks even worse.
In politics, not all mistakes are fatal.
But in a scenario where his success had already moved firmly to longshot status, how he could still dig out of this one remains to be seen.
The abrasive message of repentance John preached 2000 years ago is still confrontational and offensive today — but it is also life-changing.
In our putrid, worldly culture that has turned away from God, this book is a must-read for every Christian.