Multiple members of the mainstream media have all pushed out the same claim this week Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., is lacking the charm and personality necessary to run for president.
Politico columnist Jonathan Martin started things off Tuesday with a lengthy column titled “Ron DeSantis Takes On the Likability Issue (Sort Of).” Within the piece, Martin quoted Republican donor Francis Rooney calling DeSantis “a little reserved and dry” compared to past presidents, suggesting discord with potential conservative donors to him launching a presidential campaign.
“The griping, for now, is coming mostly from Republican donors, some of whom crave contact from politicians nearly as much as lower marginal rates and reliable Gulfstreams. Yet the complaints about his interpersonal skills are symptomatic of a deeper challenge for the governor, of which he and his small inner circle have told people they’re conscious: his capacity for forging connections with people,” Martin wrote.
He added, “DeSantis’s deficiencies, however, can’t be easily dismissed. They get at the heart of a much larger question, something more consequential than even donor vanity, that will shape his prospects in 2024: how much does retail politics still matter in presidential campaigns?”
Martin’s comments appeared to resonate with the mainstream media with several outlets not only promoting the article but agreeing with the idea that DeSantis is not likable.
“Jonathan Martin, now of Politico, wrote a great piece about Governor Ron DeSantis. One of the questions for Ron DeSantis is he’s not a backslapper. He is not a glad-handler. Could he be more likable? Because it matters. It matters in politics, especially with donors,” CNN host John King said on Tuesday’s “Inside Politics.”
He continued, “To many people listening out there it might seem silly, but if you’re trying to raise money in a crowded primary, if you’re trying to convince especially Trump donors, ‘dump Trump, come to me,’ it matters that they feel like you’re going to spend a few minutes with them.”
Fellow CNN host Erin Burnett also discussed the article with Martin himself on “Erin Burnett Outfront” Tuesday night, agreeing that working the crowds is “just not something he is known to do.”
“Florida Governor Ron DeSantis now wants to be liked. According to new reporting by veteran political reporter Jonathan Martin, DeSantis is putting on a charm offensive, making a more concerted effort to work the crowds and make small talk. That is just not something he is known to do, and I think he’s pretty open about the fact that he doesn’t like to do it,” Burnett said.
Martine elaborated, “He realizes that he’s got to develop some relationships, that you can’t run entirely a wholesale campaign with viral video clips, and television appearances, that you’ve got to have friends. And it’s not just donors. He asked donors obviously that require lots of care and feeding. But it’s also politicians and other governors who you need to have allies when you run in a primary. And then, of course, voters themselves who, in a lot of these early nominating states, as you know, historically want to be touched, want to be sort of engaged.”
“The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert dedicated a section of his monologue that same night to ridiculing DeSantis for his apparent lack of charm.
“In recent polls of GOP voters, DeSantis has a lead over the former president. But he’s missing one thing: insiders say that for all his smarts and shrewdness, he lacks charm. Come on! You’re telling me this man lacks charm? He’s got the smooth style of a non-playable character in a PlayStation 2 game! Hey, hey. ‘Get out of my bank with your skateboard, Tony Hawk!’” Colbert riffed.
He continued, citing another article from The New Yorker in June titled “Can Ron DeSantis Displace Donald Trump as the G.O.P.’s Combatant-in-Chief?”
“Apparently, DeSantis is turning off Republican donors because he has an aversion to schmoozing. As one Florida political leader described the feelings donors have when they actually meet the candidate: ‘Ron is at his best on paper. Then you meet him, and you say, oh, my gosh.’ It’s true. DeSantis is best on paper. Specifically, the roll by toilet,” Colbert said.
Colbert’s monologue was shared by both HuffPost and the New York Times Wednesday morning with The Times placing it under their “Best of Late Night” roundup.
Other liberal media pundits also pointed out DeSantis lacking a sense of charm for the national stage.
MSNBC host Chris Hayes tweeted on Wednesday, “I’m not the target audience, obviously, but DeSantis whole vibe is so pinched and humorless I really do wonder how it fares on a larger stage.”
On Wednesday’s “CNN Tonight,” Lauren Leader, CEO of the nonprofit organization All In Together, emphasized DeSantis’ “very, very low-key” personality.
“My prediction is that DeSantis is the Jeb Bush of the 2024 cycle,” Leader said.
She explained, “I think they like him because they don’t know him yet. He has very, very low-key personality wise, he does not have charisma, he doesn’t actually like campaigning. His own staff have trouble getting him to meet with donors, he’s not personable, and I think, aside from the superficial…he did win reelection, and for very good reasons in the state like Florida, I do not believe that he has the kind of national appeal or charisma that is required for presidential campaign. But there is this big movement of trying to find the alternative. And he looks like an alternative.”
New York Magazine’s The Intelligencer further compared DeSantis’ lack of charm to former President Donald Trump’s “sinister charm,” as described by columnist Ed Kilgore.
“Without question, in 2016 Trump benefited from a divided GOP primary field. Similarly, DeSantis could get a boost if he can present himself as the one candidate who can pick up the MAGA banner while jettisoning Trump’s heavy baggage,” Kilgore wrote. “But in one potentially decisive respect, a nomination fight limited to the two Floridians could create contrasting impressions that are not helpful to DeSantis. To put it bluntly, the governor is light on charisma.”
Some 2024 polling has positioned DeSantis as beating out both Trump and Biden in a potential presidential nomination and race. Although DeSantis has yet to announce a 2024 presidential run, a political action committee called Ready for Ron recently announced its intentions to spend $3.3 million over the next six months to promote him as a candidate.