NY Times Mocks DeSantis's 'Angry...Tongue-Tied,' Defensive Debate Performances

August 23rd, 2023 7:00 PM

As the first Republican presidential debate looms, New York Times campaign reporter Nicholas Nehemas spread anti-DeSantis doomsaying in “For DeSantis, Release of Debate Strategy Amplifies a Daunting Challenge,” keyed to some unusually blunt debate advice posted online by a DeSantis-affiliated political action committee.

The first Republican presidential debate next week was already looking like a stern test for Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who is battling to overcome sagging national poll numbers, a fund-raising crunch and an overhaul of his top campaign staff.

Now his tall task appears towering.

Nehemas was primed for DeSantis to look awkward or commit a gaffe.

Wearing the bull’s-eye could prove uncomfortable for Mr. DeSantis, a 44-year-old Harvard-trained lawyer known to bristle under criticism. His opponents will hope to score viral moments highlighting his defensiveness and casting him as awkward and robotic….

Mr. DeSantis’s most prominent debates -- in his contests for governor against Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor of Florida turned Democratic member of Congress, and Andrew Gillum, at the time the mayor of Tallahassee -- do not necessarily offer hope to his supporters. They are now largely remembered for encounters that left Mr. DeSantis angry or tongue-tied.

Reading the Times’ coverage of DeSantis, one could be amazed how this bumbler won two elections for governor of the third-largest state -- the last by almost 20 percentage points.

Nehemas summarized a moment in the DeSantis-Crist debate when Crist questioned DeSantis if he would pledge to serve a full term and DeSantis didn’t respond.

By the time Mr. DeSantis broke the awkwardness to deliver a seemingly rehearsed counterpunch, calling Mr. Crist a “worn-out old donkey,” the damage had been done.

It was exactly the kind of moment the Crist campaign had been gunning for.

That moment really turned the tide for Crist, didn’t it?

Bias also crept into the reporter’s description of DeSantis’s debate performance against 2018 opponent Andrew Gillum.

At the time, Mr. DeSantis was under fire for having said that voters should not “monkey this up” by electing Mr. Gillum, who is Black. His comments were widely criticized as racist.

Confronted by the debate moderator, Mr. DeSantis angrily interrupted, his voice rising as he said he had stood up for people of all races as a military lawyer and prosecutor. “I am not going to bow down to the altar of political correctness,” he added. “I am going to not let the media smear me.”

Mr. Gillum, known as a gifted public speaker, seized on the opportunity.

“My grandmother used to say ‘a hit dog will holler,’ and it hollered through this room,” he said of Mr. DeSantis, before landing a strong blow: “Now, I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.”

Mr. DeSantis visibly winced and scoffed.

Meanwhile, Reid Epstein indulged in Democratic giddiness at the prospect of Republican infighting in Democrats Root for a Rowdy GOP Debate.”

After a year of fretting about President Biden’s political standing and their electoral chances in 2024, Democrats are at a moment of high confidence as Republicans prepare for their first presidential debate on Wednesday.

As for the Hunter Biden controversy, there's nothing to fret over.

Democrats aren’t exactly popping popcorn for this scenario -- it is an intensely painful episode for the president, and the prospect of a criminal trial isn’t appealing to them -- but they are confident that any detour down a Hunter Biden rabbit hole will take emphasis away from issues that moderate and independent voters care about.