Monday, May 08, 2023

Republican Unity? Donalds and Gaetz Weigh in on Leaked DeSantis Tape

By Jennifer Oliver O'Connell |

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

It seems to have been a week of supposedly “explosive” video leaks backfiring bigly. The MMFA takedown of Tucker Carlson has only served to make him more relatable. Now, ABC News released footage of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis doing 2018 debate prep and “grappling” about how to frame then-President Donald J. Trump.

From this bombshell (/sarc) ABC report:

In the 2018 tapes, DeSantis at times stands behind a podium sparring with his advisers — which include Gaetz and then-state representative Byron Donalds — as they role-play DeSantis’ opponent and work through issues and possible responses to a range of questions, including whether he would accept funding from the NRA.

“Has the NRA donated to me?” DeSantis asks his team at one point.

“I don’t think the NRA is quite the boogeyman the Democrats think it is,” he says later.

Gaetz and Donalds, now both Republican members of Congress from Florida, have both endorsed Trump’s third bid for the White House in 2024.

The reveal went over about as well as expected. The only explosion is the sound of ABC News’ ratings imploding.

The unintended consequence? Republican unity may be occurring:

Two House Republicans who were involved with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ debate prep during his 2018 campaign denounced Sunday’s leak of debate prep videos in a pair of tweets.

Reps. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who have already enthusiastically said they support Donald Trump for president, said the leaked footage released by ABC News is an example of petty politics.

 I ran the Desantis Debate Prep in 2018.

Gaetz tweeted:

I ran the DeSantis Debate Prep in 2018. Though I prefer Trump for President (bigly), the release of these videos by the person operating the camera is disloyal hackery that I do not abide. Staffers who leak on the candidates they’ve done work for deserve the reputations they get.

Who got ahold of Gaetz? A typical brawler, it is surprising that he is taking this more modulated road.

Florida Rep. Byron Donalds always takes the high road, and also chose to weigh in:

I was on the DeSantis Debate prep team. These tapes should not have been leaked. It’s low class.

Despite the breathless coverage of these tweets, both the leaked tape and Gaetz and Donalds’ commentary reveal not a whole lot. What can be surmised is that whoever the Republican nominee will be, the elected Republicans (like these two Reps and Governor DeSantis) will coalesce behind that nominee without so much as a whimper. DeSantis has yet to declare as a presidential candidate, although his moves lately reflect that he is sending up trial balloons.

While Trump is under 34 indictments by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, he does not appear to be losing any steam in his current presidential run. The 2015 deposition tape from E. Jean Carroll’s sexual harassment lawsuit has also surfaced, probably in an attempt to damage Trump as the E. Jean Carroll civil trial against him wraps up. All the testimony shows is Trump being Trump, in all his bombastic, hilarious, and hyperbolic glory. This persona is what people voted for in 2016, and who they will most likely vote for again in 2024.

Whatever the case, Republicans have the edge because both Trump and DeSantis are polling much better than President Joe Biden.

My colleague Bonchie wrote:

Perhaps the White House, which has been trotting Biden out in public a lot more over the last year, simply got too arrogant? They’ve showcased a bit of an invincibility complex, presuming that nothing they do matters, with the president fumbling around on the world stage to the expectation of seal claps. But it does matter, and all of this is cumulative in the minds of the American people.

That brings me to his approval rating, which is a record-low 36 percent in the poll. Further, both Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis beat Biden in a general election matchup by wide margins (both by 6 points).

The poll by ABC/Washington Post was published Friday, and Trump still leads in terms of who Americans want to win the Republican nomination, with DeSantis not far behind.

So if these “leaks” and the polls reflect anything, it is that the Republicans have the odds in their favor, and they would do themselves a disservice with repeated occurrences of infighting and turf wars ala 2016. It also shows that Trump is not as toxic as the legacy media (and GOP establishment) wishes to make him out to be, and DeSantis is not as golden as they would like him to be.

Only time will tell how this all shakes out.