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Ron DeSantis has a messiah complex. Will it do him in?

The battle of outsize egos between the Florida governor and Donald Trump could ruin them both long before Election Day 2024.
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during an election night watch party
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during an election night watch party in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday.Giorgio Viera / AFP via Getty Images

In 2008, when he clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama said he wanted to bring about “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” In 2016, discussing his superior knowledge of our “rigged” system in accepting the GOP presidential nomination, Donald Trump declared that “I alone can fix it.” And in 2022, a Ron DeSantis ad suggested that on the eighth day, God created … Ron DeSantis

The Florida governor’s hold my beer moment sets a standard that may last for eternity, so to speak. And it’s tempting to laugh. But after his 19% margin win on Tuesday over Democrat Charlie Crist, DeSantis may in fact be the Republican Party’s savior. Somebody needs to deliver the GOP from Trump, and from that victory margin to his polling ahead of the former president, signs point to DeSantis as The One. 

The Florida governor’s hold my beer moment sets a standard that may last for eternity, so to speak.

Some conservatives are fed up with Trump and how he destroyed their electoral fortunes by endorsing and promoting a uniquely terrible collection of 2022 candidates. The cheeky right-aligned New York Post on Wednesday ran a “DeFuture” cover of the DeSantis family (“Young GOP star DeSantis romps to victory in Florida”). On Thursday the tabloid featured Trump as Trumpty-Dumpty and said, “Don (who couldn’t build a wall) had a great fall.” 

The backlash and back-to-back insults were enough to kick-start the 2024 campaign, or at least Trump’s personal campaign to keep DeSantis out of the race. Trump versus DeSantis is a fight between two men with messiah complexes who want us to believe each is the leader America needs. Neither is, and if we’re lucky, the battle that their outsize egos unleash will ruin them both long before Election Day 2024.

In a diatribe Thursday night on his social media platform, Truth Social, debuting some of his lines of attack, Trump called DeSantis “an average REPUBLICAN Governor with great Public Relations” who owes his career to Trump. “Ron came to me in desperate shape in 2017 … politically dead, losing in a landslide,” the former president said. He accused DeSantis of disloyalty for not ruling out a 2024 race and also went after “NewsCorp, which is Fox, the Wall Street Journal, and the no longer great New York Post” for being “all in for Governor Ron DeSanctimonious.” 

President Joe Biden, who has indicated he intends a run for re-election, told reporters, “It’d be fun watching” Trump and DeSantis fight it out. No kidding. Two obnoxiously overconfident MAGA males who think they know what’s best for everyone, going at it in a 2024 warm-up that could be an elimination round? Democrats would be trampling each other to get to the popcorn.

DeSantis made a solid bid to be America’s redeemer in chief in a video his wife posted Nov. 4 on Twitter. “And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a protector.’ So God made a fighter,” the narrator says over an image of DeSantis among adoring fans.

God is mentioned 10 times in less than two minutes in the clip, prompting Mike Allen of Axios to publish a parody in his publication’s trademarked “smart brevity” format:

Breaking: God apparently endorsed Ron DeSantis (R) for reelection, according to the Florida governor’s new ad.

· Why it matters: It would be the first time God officially endorsed a statewide candidate.

That’s funny, but the actual ad is enraging and scary. DeSantis is no messiah for supporters of abortion access, voting rights, tighter gun laws, public health expertise, a diverse, tolerant America and a government that puts all religions — and the roughly 3 in 10 Americans whose religious affiliation is “none” — on equal footing. DeSantis even signed a law restricting abortion at a church.

The “God” ad describes DeSantis as a person who gets up before dawn, leaves his family and travels thousands of miles to “serve the people”; someone who “isn’t afraid to defend what he knows to be right and just.” HE KNOWS. When Trump calls him “Ron DeSanctimonious,” the undisputed master of evil nicknames is spot on, as usual.

And yet, Trump is just as sure he is right, and just as sure of his godly support. As David French put it Thursday in The Atlantic, “Parts of the Christian base are convinced he has a divine destiny to save the nation.” There’s even a 2018 movie about it called “The Trump Prophecy.” Trump’s “I alone can fix it” line displayed Olympic-level narcissism and ignorance, and now — as he continues to bend, break and beat up our laws, politics and institutions — it is a dark, bottomless pit of irony. 

So is his win-loss record this week. We don’t know the final score yet, but it’s fair to say there might have been at least a pink wave if the GOP had nominated stronger contenders in federal and statewide races.

Could Trump himself win another national election? His political history and ongoing legal crises point to a no. Could DeSantis win a national election? Doubtful. America is not Florida, as this week’s Republican disappointments outside the Sunshine State show. And his whole sent-by-God, father-knows-best schtick is not as enticing as he thinks it is. 

For purely selfish reasons, I hope DeSantis seizes the moment. This battle of the dictatorial titans may be the best way to truly save America — from four years of either one of them.