Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ struggling presidential campaign seems to have settled on a strategy to overtake Nikki Haley in the GOP primary: upping the cruelty factor.
Recent polls have shown DeSantis trailing the former South Carolina governor and Donald Trump in key primary states. And to draw a distinction between himself and the other GOP presidential hopefuls, DeSantis showed during the last GOP debate that he may take a harder line on hot-button issues.
For example, Haley staked out her own cruel position in response to a question about undocumented migrants who are already living in the U.S., saying she’d send millions of them back where they came from. Not to be outdone, DeSantis got positively homicidal in his response to a question about drug smugglers at the southern border, saying he’d shoot them “stone cold dead” — a phrase his supporters have tried to market as a slogan in recent months.
During an interview with a right-wing radio host on Tuesday, DeSantis again sought to separate himself from Haley. This time he suggested that Haley wasn’t extreme enough in the wake of the protests against the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020.
[Haley] has never fought any big fight on our behalf as conservatives — and won any big fight. Anytime the guns come out — anytime the left does, she cuts and runs. I remember when the George Floyd riots were happening, I called out the National Guard. I said, ‘I’m standing with police.’ She was tweeting that it needed to be personal and painful for every single person. And I’m thinking to myself, ‘Why does that need to be personal and painful for you or me? We had nothing to do with it.' It just shows an example of her adopting this left-wing mindset and accepting the narrative.
Best as I can tell, the “narrative” DeSantis is referring to is the one that says people should care about the lives of other people, even if they may be suspected of a crime. It's an odd political move, even for him. Haley’s tweet about the pain she felt after Floyd’s killing reflected how many Americans felt at the time. And her thread even included the boilerplate caveats about not blaming all officers that politicians often use after incidents of police violence.
If he's trying to play up the contrasts, at least DeSantis found a genuine one. He controversially deployed the Florida National Guard to quell protests in his state — and more oddly, sent some to Washington, D.C., as well.
But at the time, he went further than Haley did in condemning the four officers involved in Floyd’s death, calling the incident a “murder” and suggesting that one of the officers, Derek Chauvin, was badly trained and needed to be held accountable. (He was: Chauvin was convicted of murder in Floyd's death and is serving more than 20 years in prison.)
DeSantis is pretty clearly looking to score political points on Haley with his criticism of her response to the 2020 demonstrations. That he seems to think he can score these points with GOP voters by suggesting she should have cared less speaks volumes about how he views the conservative base.