Editor’s Word: Dean Obeidallah, a former legal professional, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s every day program “The Dean Obeidallah Present.” Observe him @DeanObeidallah@masto.ai. The opinions expressed on this commentary are his personal. View more opinion on CNN.
“I pity the idiot who runs towards President Trump,” failed GOP Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake tweeted this weekend as the previous President kicked off his first 2024 presidential campaign event.
Followers of “Rocky III” will immediately acknowledge the enduring line that Lake, an election-denying Trump acolyte, borrowed as the identical well-known phrase uttered by James “Clubber” Lang, a vicious, hard-hitting boxer performed within the 1982 movie by Mr. T.
In a memorable scene from the movie, forward of an imminent battle with Rocky Balboa, Clubber Lang is requested by a reporter whether or not he hates the eponymous boxing legend, portrayed by Sylvester Stallone.
“No, I don’t hate Balboa. But I pity the fool,” Clubber Lang snarls earlier than casting a menacing look straight into the digicam.
It’s onerous to know for positive who the “idiot” is that Lake was referring to, however my guess can be Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who appears to be biding his time forward of a doable White Home run. DeSantis seems — at the least for the second — to pose the best risk to Trump’s bid to repeat because the Republican Get together’s presidential standard-bearer.
Previously, Trump has mocked the Florida governor as “Ron DeSanctimonious.” The previous President mercilessly slammed DeSantis once more on Saturday, first at a South Carolina marketing campaign rally after which in remarks to the media. On his campaign plane, Trump berated DeSantis as “very disloyal” and accused him of “trying to rewrite history” in current pronouncements about Covid-19 coverage in Florida.
“I had governors that determined to not shut a factor and that was as much as them,” Trump said. He additionally took goal at DeSantis’ shifting place on vaccines, saying the Florida governor had “modified his tune quite a bit.”
DeSantis has, in reality, “modified his tune” on Covid-19.
In March 2020, in response to the quickly spreading pandemic, the Florida governor issued an executive order closing bars and nightclubs, and urged folks to comply with US Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention tips limiting gatherings on seashores to not more than 10 folks.
However his current remarks and pronouncements have veered sharply away from smart, government-imposed Covid-19 protections in what seems to be a determined bid to attraction to the GOP’s Covid-denying base voters forward of an anticipated presidential run.
DeSantis has come out against lockdowns, masks mandates, vaccines and different measures meant to fight the unfold of the coronavirus. The supposition by many political observers is that the about-face has largely been motivated by an impending White Home bid.
However any potential run inevitably means a face-off with Trump, who’s, as but, the one Republican to have formally introduced within the race. “Rocky III” marked the fortieth anniversary of its launch final 12 months, however the 2024 GOP nominating marketing campaign is likely to be Rocky vs. Clubber Lang over again.
There’s one other second within the movie that springs to thoughts as I think about a doable Trump vs. DeSantis showdown. That’s the scene the place Clubber Lang, having misplaced his boxing title, trash-talks Rocky in an effort to goad him right into a battle.
Lang confronts Rocky at a press convention, publicly mocking the champ for refusing to battle a “actual man,” and screaming out to the assembled crowd: “If he ain’t no coward, why received’t he battle me then?”
In some ways, it appears as if we have now the identical situation taking part in out now, with Trump because the challenger and DeSantis because the champ — even when that stands actuality on its head to some extent since Trump as soon as occupied the White Home and DeSantis can be the beginner in nationwide politics.
But when the previous President will not be precisely an underdog within the White Home nomination contest, he definitely has been on the ropes of late, with polls displaying a certain Trump fatigue amongst many citizens in his occasion who would slightly another person be the GOP nominee.
Trump is doing every thing he can to taunt DeSantis into combating him, from calling him an “average” governor to claiming that the only reason the “politically lifeless” DeSantis was even elected governor within the first place was due to his endorsement.
As Rocky did at first with Lang, DeSantis has tried to remain above the fray. After profitable reelection as Florida governor in November, DeSantis dismissed Trump’s criticism as “noise,” explaining that “when you’re getting issues performed, yeah, you’re taking incoming hearth. That’s simply the character of it.”
But when DeSantis runs in 2024, he’ll want to point out the purple meat-loving GOP base that he can punch again towards Trump. And if the previous is any information, he’ll want to try this quickly. If he desires proof of the perils of holding again towards Trump, he want look no additional than his fellow Floridian, Sen. Marco Rubio.
Through the 2016 GOP presidential race, Trump and Rubio have been among the many Republicans vying for the chance to sq. off towards the eventual Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. Early within the main marketing campaign, Trump established himself because the GOP contender to beat.
At first, Rubio didn’t assault Trump immediately. That modified when Rubio confronted a “do or die” second, discovering himself in third place behind Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas within the delegate depend, with little time to make up floor forward of a March 2016 primary in his house state of Florida.
That’s when Rubio lastly took the gloves off, calling Trump “an embarrassment” and a demagogue. But it surely was too little, too late for Rubio, who misplaced the Florida GOP main, and ended up dropping out of the race the following day.
Nobody has ever accused DeSantis of being meek. He’s greater than able to firing again at Trump. He has a monitor document of lashing out at critics, slamming every thing from the “corporate media” to Big Tech. In reality, final 12 months DeSantis invoked one other traditional movie, “Prime Gun,” in a marketing campaign advert to clarify his battle plan in political dogfights.
Carrying a flight go well with and seated within the cockpit of a fighter jet because the “Prime Gov,” DeSantis revealed his “rules of engagement,” declaring, “No. 1 — don’t hearth until fired upon, however once they hearth, you hearth again with overwhelming power.” He continued: “No. 2 — by no means, ever again down from a battle.”
To this point, “Prime Gov” has didn’t dwell as much as both of those dictates.
Trump repeatedly opens hearth upon DeSantis, who has failed to reply, with the “overwhelming power” that he vowed he would unleash. In reality, DeSantis hasn’t fired again in any respect. It seems the Florida governor is backing down from the battle.
Maybe DeSantis — a Harvard Law School graduate and former federal prosecutor — is ready to see if Trump is criminally indicted, within the hopes he doesn’t have to satisfy him on the sphere of battle. Simply final week, Fulton County, Georgia, District Legal professional Fani Willis informed a decide that “decisions are imminent” in her investigation into efforts by Trump and his allies to intervene within the 2020 election in Georgia.
There’s also special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into Trump over the January 6, 2021, assault and the trove of categorised paperwork discovered at Mar-a-Lago that may yield prices. Whereas Trump can nonetheless legally run for president whereas underneath indictment — or even if convicted of a crime — as a sensible matter it will probably be devastating to his election prospects.
However barring prosecution of the previous President, if DeSantis desires to win in 2024, he can’t maintain ducking Trump’s barbs. DeSantis ought to keep in mind that regardless that in “Rocky III” the enduring fighter misplaced his title early within the movie to the menacing and merciless Clubber Lang, the “Italian Stallion” prevailed ultimately.
However to prevail, it’s important to put up a battle. There may come a time when GOP voters view DeSantis’ refusal to defend himself and punch again as an indication of weak point.
The longer he’s silent within the face of Trump’s barrage of punches, the extra probably folks will ask themselves, as Rocky’s nemesis did: If he ain’t no coward, why received’t he battle?