The End Is Closing In On "The Aging, Raging Gorilla Who’s Become A Whiny, Democracy-Defying Bore"
Yesterday, a University of New Hampshire poll indicates that if the Republican Party presidential primary were held today, DeSantis would beat Trump by 2 points-- 39 to 37%. It also shows that although Biden would beat Trump handily-- 50-43%-- DeSantis is a point ahead of Biden, 47-46%. Don't bet the farm on any of these numbers. It's early and many people think Trump will turn DeSantis into a puddle of piss as soon as he feels his interests-- or bundles of psychoses-- are threatened by him.
One thing you can bet the farm on though, is that historians will judge Trump the worst president ever. In fact a brand new survey of 141 presidential scholars by Siena College already shows Trump at the bottom of the barrel, right down there with presidential embarrassments Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan, Warren Harding and Franklin Pierce. Remember, voters turned their backs on Trumpanzee after one chaotic term-- 81,268,924 (51.3%) to 74,216,154 (46.9%). As a matter of fact, Trump's margin of victory in North Carolina was so minuscule and he wouldn't have won there without carefully executed and widespread voter suppression.
Late yesterday, Vanity Fair published an essay for Joe Pompeo asserting that the Murdochs are more than open to seeing the GOP ditch Trump, the sooner the better. For example, in his NY Post column a few days ago, Piers Morgan "held up a grenade, pulled out the pin, and lobbed it in the direction of Mar-a-Lago. 'Ron DeSantis is showing himself to be a formidable and dynamic political operator... [by] almost any political metric you choose, this guy’s a far better option for leading the Republicans into the 2024 election than Donald Trump…He’s just younger, fresher, and more exciting than the aging, raging gorilla who’s become a whiny, democracy-defying bore.' In his kicker, Morgan twisted the knife to and fro: 'The game’s up for the Donald… It’s time Republicans put their faith in the Ronald.'"
"Morgan’s takedown," wrote Pompeo, "was wholly consistent with the wider message that has lately been blaring out from the opinion sections of Murdoch’s American newspapers: Dump Trump. The drumbeat has become apparent with the January 6 hearings dominating the news cycle in recent weeks. 'The person who owns Jan. 6 is Donald Trump,' the Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote. 'Trump betrayed his supporters by conning them on Jan. 6, and he is still doing it.' A Post editorial went even further. 'Look forward!' the paper urged its constituents. 'The 2024 field is rich. You have Florida gov. Ron DeSantis, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley…the list goes on. All candidates who embrace conservative policies without the preoccupations of the Don.… Unsubscribe from Trump’s daily emails begging for money. Then pick your favorite from a new crop of conservatives. Look to 2022, and 2024, and a new era. Let’s make America sane again.'"
Morgan’s column was the most au courant, considering the wave of DeSantis fever that’s hanging in the air (along with lingering COVID). It’s not just coming from conservatives salivating over DeSantis’s youthful brand of anti-establishment warfare and pugilistic populism-- albeit one belied by elite Ivy League credentials-- but from a media that senses how a showdown with Trump could become a major story line heading into 2024. To that end, Dexter Filkins’ recent DeSantis profile in the New Yorker has been the talk of the town. And it includes some color about the copious DeSantis coverage emanating from Murdoch’s most powerful media fiefdom: Fox News. The cable network helped propel DeSantis to the governor’s mansion-- and is providing national exposure ahead of a potential White House run.
What to make of all this? As someone in the Murdoch orbit put it, “Rupert’s a pragmatic guy. He knows better than anybody how to read political tea leaves. It’s fairly self-evident that quite a few people in the firmament have begun to challenge the previously supported collective viewpoint about Trump. It’s understood now that the gloves are off. As he lashes out, it just makes it easier for people to hit back.”
Elaborating with a bit more nuance, the podcaster and former senior Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer said in a recent appearance on CNN’s Reliable Sources, “The creation of this entire right-wing media apparatus was designed for one purpose: to elect Republicans to office. And there is a strong current among some Republican political operatives, and some folks in the conservative movement, that Donald Trump is not their best chance to win-- because of his role in what happened before, because he seems so obsessed with looking backward as opposed to forward. So this is not a moral statement from Rupert Murdoch’s papers about Donald Trump being bad or the dangers of January 6. They just want another candidate, perhaps Ron DeSantis, to be in a position to allow them to control the White House again, by any means necessary.”
For some additional context-- and to make sure I wasn’t making too much of all this-- I consulted one of my go-to Murdoch-ologists, David Folkenflik, the NPR correspondent and author of Murdoch’s World. “There’s no way these papers are dumping the Donald without the tacit assent of Lachlan and Rupert,” he told me. (Lachlan Murdoch is CEO of Fox Corporation, which owns Fox News; co-chairman of News Corp, which owns the Journal and the Post; and heir to his 91-year-old father’s global media empire.) “Trump was always a compromised figure for them, but a useful one. If they can get a cleaner version of Trump in DeSantis, why wouldn’t they want that?”
I asked Folkenflik if he views the recent anti-Trump opinion-mongering in the Journal and the Post as a sign of where the winds are blowing for the papers’ overlords. “Rupert shapes where his audience is going, but he also wants to anticipate where it’s headed, so he can be seen as leading them,” he said. “It could be that Trump surprises them and they will pivot. But Lachlan and Rupert are clearly signaling that they are open to a new generation, to move past Trump and to try and beat Biden.”