Ron DeSantis is no heir to Donald Trump

DeSantis’ perceived personal shortcomings are apt to keep him out of the White House. Unlike Trump, he comes across as didactic and humorless. People use the word “robotic” to describe him.

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Ron DeSantis with his wife Casey DeSantis speaks during an election night watch party at the Convention Center in Tampa, Florida, on November 8, 2022. -

Ron DeSantis with his wife Casey DeSantis speaks during an election night watch party at the Convention Center in Tampa, Florida, on Nov. 8.

Giorgio Viera/Getty

This week’s new vocabulary word is “decompensate.” Psychiatrists use it to describe mentally ill people who are totally losing their ... well, acting like former President Donald J. Trump: having Nazis over for dinner and then demanding that the Constitution be set aside and that he be reinstated, presumably for life.

And then denying his own written words.

Mary Trump, the clinical psychologist and would-be Fuehrer’s niece, has long predicted something like this. “He’s never been in a situation in which he has lost in a way he can’t escape from,” she told Politico’s Michael Kruse soon after the 2020 election. For a pathological narcissist, psychiatrists warn, being seen as a loser equates with “psychic death.” More recently, with her uncle’s legal troubles multiplying and the walls closing in, Mary Trump fears for the worst.

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“We don’t know just what kind of information he has on other people in his party,” she said last week on MSNBC. “What we do know is he would be willing to use it ... Donald will burn everything down if he feels like he is going down — we cannot discount that. We ignore him at our peril.”

If he were a real gangster, they’d have him whacked.

But this isn’t “The Sopranos,” which was on HBO, not Fox News.

Who’s apt to be the first target of Trump’s ire? His presumptive heir apparent, of course, the Florida governor he’s already dubbed “Ron DeSanctimonious” — a derisive nickname that has fallen flat. Partly because most Trump idolaters don’t know what it means, and partly because Trump himself may not. It has the ring of a line fed to him by a speechwriter.

More ominous from the perspective of those who see DeSantis as “Trump with a brain” may have been what the former president told The Wall Street Journal about his rival for the 2024 nomination: “If he did run, I will tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering. I know more about him than anybody, other than perhaps his wife, who is really running his campaign.”

Sounds like a bluff to me. Trump always knows more about everything than anybody else. The generals, the doctors, you name it.

Sure he does.

But DeSantis does have an ambitious wife who’s totally on board with his presidential aspirations. A former local TV news anchor, Casey DeSantis is credited as the brains behind possibly the most bizarre political commercial in recent American history — the one where the Florida governor is depicted as being on a mission from God, kind of like Belushi and Aykroyd in “The Blues Brothers,” except with no songs.

The thing has to be seen to be believed. It begins like a Bible documentary, with dramatic footage of the Earth as seen from space.

“And on the eighth day,” a deep-voiced announcer intones, “God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a protector.’ So, God made a fighter.”

Cut to a series of video clips of DeSantis with various citizen groups, each clip punctuated with the repeated slogan: “So God made a fighter.”

Me, I’d go with “Ron DeLusional” as a nickname, but then I tend not to see his political enemies — Democratic school board members, liberal professors at Florida universities, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Mickey Mouse (DeSantis picked a fight with Disney World over gay rights) — as enemies of God.

Indeed, the idea strikes me as both laughable and offensive.

Speaking before a forum at right-wing Hillsdale College in Michigan last February, as reported by Frank Bruni in The New York Times, DeSantis urged his audience to: “Put on the full armor of God. Stand firm against the left’s schemes. You will face flaming arrows, but if you have the shield of faith, you will overcome them.”

Ho-hum. You hear this kind of tent revival talk all the time in Southern politics. It rarely succeeds over time because it brooks no compromise and wears people out. What’s unusual is hearing it from a politician like DeSantis, a Yale graduate with a Harvard law degree.

So he won a 19-point victory over a washed-up Democratic opponent. Sen. Marco Rubio defeated a more formidable Val Demings by 16. Nobody’s touting him as a presidential contender. Filling up with Yankee snowbirds, Florida’s gone all Republican now.

It’s more DeSantis’ perceived personal shortcomings that are apt to keep him out of the White House than anything Trump — likely a convicted felon before 2024 — could say about him. Unlike Trump, he comes across as didactic and humorless. People use the word “robotic” to describe him.

“A strange no-eye-contact oddball,” is how GOP consultant Rick Wilson puts it. “I’d rather have teeth pulled without anesthetic than be on a boat with Ron DeSantis,” a Tallahassee lobbyist told The Atlantic’s Mark Leibovich.

Politicians who run on sheer anger eventually wear people out.

Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President.”

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