The Daily Beast offered a reminder Thursday of how there’s no bottom to their juvenile but slimy reporting as reporters Jake Lahut and former conservative-turned-real-life-Randall Zachary Petrizzo offered an audition for the grocery store tabloids in “The GOP Campaign Trail Is Already Getting DeSantis-Proofed.” The big scoop? Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) isn’t a social butterfly and allegedly ate a cup of pudding with his fingers.
The big find came near the end of the 1300-plus-word hit piece, insisting “[t]he chatter over DeSantis’ public engagement has also surfaced past unflattering stories about his social skills—particularly, his propensity to devour food during meetings.”
They then cited “a former DeSantis staffer” (who’s likely rather disgruntled) that claimed DeSantis “would sit in meetings and eat in front of people” as if he were a “starving animal who has never eaten before… getting shit everywhere.”
Then came the supposed bombshell:
Enshrined in DeSantis lore is an episode from four years ago: During a private plane trip from Tallahassee to Washington, D.C., in March of 2019, DeSantis enjoyed a chocolate pudding dessert—by eating it with three of his fingers, according to two sources familiar with the incident.
The rest of the piece reads like it belongs in the warped dreams of someone like Joy Reid or Tommy Vietor or Bulwark fan fiction, built on anonymous sources insisting they’re important to DeSantis’s 2024 chances.
Lahut and Petrizzo began by knocking DeSantis as someone who’s “in the corner, keeping to himself” “[a]t any given fundraiser or VIP room” and has thus “brush[ed] off” the part of being a politician that’s necessitated by “small talk and pleasantries”.
Why? Well, you see, he has an “aloof public persona” and “struggles with basic social skills, according to a source close to DeSantis, several of his former staffers, and other GOP operatives who have worked with him and his team.”
As if they’re working for both the Biden campaign and DeSantis’s likely GOP opponents, Lahut and Petrizzo warned that DeSantis’s “aversion to pressing the flesh, and his concern over the risk of unexpected interactions with the public, is already so well-known that early primary state players are working to DeSantis-proof their events”.
On cue, they gleefully claimed: “If DeSantis continues on his current course, Trump’s job may not prove very difficult.”
One “top New Hampshire Republican” gave them a money quote that they used in their subhead, which was that DeSantis was a “nightmare” on par with “former House Speaker Newt Gingrich”.
Other gripes from anonymous sources with an axe to grind? An Iowa event featured “bike racks to create space between himself and a crowd,” he’s a “quiet” person, loathes “delegating,” “maintain[s] a ‘very small orbit’” and throws “prescribed” events.
More former staffers and anti-DeSantis Republicans sounded off with grievances (click “expand”):
But the veteran primary event host compared DeSantis’ insular approach to the way former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ran her campaign in 2016—not exactly a blueprint that the governor would like to follow.
A GOP strategist, who has no horse in the 2024 race, even compared DeSantis’ early approach to that of his potential general election opponent, arguing the governor has embraced a “Tallahassee basement strategy, mirroring that of Biden in 2020, where he hides from press and real voters.”
DeSantis’ tendency to restrict media outlets also worries hosts of primary campaign stops who have long been friendly to presidential hopefuls of both parties, leading to concerns that the Florida governor may be setting new precedents for future candidates.
Three former DeSantis staffers described him as simply “quiet” no matter the occasion—someone who keeps to himself. That’s made the shift to the national scene harder than anticipated, one source explained, particularly in the governor’s hesitation when it comes to “delegating” and his insistence on maintaining a “very small” orbit.
Several former staffers for the governor told The Daily Beast almost everything he does is scripted, which, coupled with an aversion to small talk, general pleasantries, and any unplanned interactions with the public, make him difficult to manage ahead of events.
“It’s very prescribed,” one former DeSantis staffer told The Daily Beast, while adding there are limited “off-the-cuff” interactions while on the trail with DeSantis.
Thanks to the game of anonymous sources, no one has a clue, for example, whether the “GOP strategist, who has no horse in the 2024 race” was a Lincoln Project type, a Bulwark writer, or even someone who’d vote for the GOP nominee and not Biden.
After the disclosure of pudding-gate, the piece wound down with more anonymous sources, including one channeling their inner Mean Girl:
The scrutiny on his social skills, his past interactions, and his openness to unscripted interactions has been inevitable, a seasoned primary operative pointed out.
“He’s obviously gotta be ready to take what comes at this point,” the senior New Hampshire Republican said, “because that’s how it always is.”