“(H)e doth bestride the narrow world like a colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about...” Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene II
Like Caesar in his world, Donald Trump doth bestride the Republican Party like a colossus, and all those challenging him for the 2024 presidential nomination are, by comparison, petty men (and a woman) peeping about in his shadow. Ron DeSantis is currently the pick of the peeper litter, but he still falls far short of measuring up to Trump, who stubbornly stands athwart the Republican road to the White House.
It will take a village to clear that road, if it can be cleared by anything other than the mortality of the man and the passage of time. Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith and Atlanta District Attorney Fani Willis will certainly have to do their parts. But even more indictments may not be enough. Smith is a career government lawyer, which, ipso facto, makes him a villain in the MAGA hive mind. Willis has three strikes against her: Democrat, woman, Black. So disdain and disbelief concerning whatever they do is already baked into the MAGA narrative of witch hunts and leftist conspiracies.
What is wanting is a Brutus to lend a hand in seeing the GOP Caesar off, an insider who cannot be dismissed as a Democrat shill, someone who has the credibility, the skill and the will to strike with telling effect at close quarters.
If DeSantis has a lick of sense, he won’t take that job. Anyone who goes after Trump personally will be forever tainted with treason in the long, unforgiving memories of the MAGA faithful. This is particularly true of DeSantis, against whom, in addition to perfidy, a charge of rank ingratitude can be fairly laid, as there would be no Ron DeSantis today had Donald Trump not reached out and made him governor in 2018.
Besides, DeSantis is ill suited to the role of Brutus. His forte is kicking the bejesus out of people who can’t fight back, like teachers, transgender people and immigrant orphans. When faced with a formidable opponent — think Disney — he doesn’t fare too well, and it definitely isn’t as much fun for him as coshing kids and queer folk.
A mano-a-mano bout with Trump would make DeSantis look back with fond nostalgia on his unpleasant conflict with Disney. The awkward, carefully scripted, tightly wound man who floundered in his 2018 gubernatorial debate with Andrew Gillum and who faltered again in his 2022 debate with Charlie Crist will have to be carried away on a stretcher after any debate at which the Donald is present in all of his bloviating glory. Trump is physically imposing, histrionic, intuitive and spontaneous to a fault. DeSantis is squat, dour, easily provoked and incapable of improvisation. It is difficult to imagine a greater mismatch.
But the moment often calls forth the man.
Comes now Chris Christie, who is the Brutus DeSantis needs. Christie is a big presence both physically and figuratively, a former prosecutor and New Jersey governor, a credible presidential candidate in 2016 and an avid Trump supporter and close adviser before eventually becoming a MAGA apostate. He is smart, quick and a bare-knuckle political brawler. He is just the man to go toe to toe with Trump and give as good as he gets or better.
Mind you, Christie has no chance of being elected president in 2024. He won’t be the Republican nominee, either — and he knows it. But he can be Trump’s nemesis, and I believe that is his intent.
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Although it appears doubtful at this point that Trump can be denied the GOP nomination, it is way too early to put out the fire and call in the dogs. The accumulating weight of his depravity may yet drag him down, clearing the way for DeSantis.
As DeSantis awaits his opportunity, it is permissible for him to criticize Trump about his electability, his policy failures when president, his inability to serve two terms and whatnot. That, plus banging on ad nauseam about “woke” whatever, dastardly leftists, killer vaccines, brown people on the border and drag queens at Sunday brunches, should be enough to ensure DeSantis’ succession if his creator craters.
But attacking Trump head on for being an amoral snollygoster who incited an insurrection and is manifestly unfit for the office he once defiled is a task best left to Christie, if he is willing. And if he is willing, a grateful DeSantis should hold his coat and offer him water while he works.
Mac Stipanovich was chief of staff to former Florida Gov. Bob Martinez and a longtime Republican strategist who is currently registered No Party Affiliation.