But Ron DeSantis isn’t warm and fuzzy, so he can’t be president

by | Dec 4, 2022

Ron DeSantis isn’t warm and fuzzy enough to be president. He’s awkward. Plodding. An oddball. Neither fun nor friendly. He’s dour. He can’t improvise. He’s not somebody you’d want to have a beer with.

So goes the “newest” narrative to emerge on the national stage in an article headlined “Just wait until you get to know Ron DeSantis.” It was published last week in The Atlantic by staff writer Mark Leibovich, who attempted to distill the essence of Florida’s governor from a handful of interviews that included avowed ex-GOP Never Trumpers Rick Wilson and Mac Stipanovich, both of whom deliver the expected quotes with their usual colorful flair.

But for those who move in political circles in Florida, the descriptions aren’t “new” at all. They’ve been used to describe DeSantis since he was just another congressman trying to make a name for himself with frequent appearances on Fox News. And the descriptions keep getting repeated, at least partly, because they probably contain some small kernels of truth.

Not everyone agrees, though.

“I reject the premise that Governor DeSantis isn’t the guy you want to have a beer with,” says Skylar Zandar, Florida’s state director for Americans for Prosperity. “I’ve had the fortunate ability to see him on the baseball field with his son and I’ve spent time with he and his family in social settings and I can tell you he’s a normal guy. He’s loves sports and loves policy. If you can’t connect with him over that then, maybe you’re not the best judge of social acceptance.”

But plenty of others have come away from interactions with DeSantis and concluded he lacks the personal magnetism they’d hoped for.

Leibovich reasons that those criticisms will knock some of the shine off DeSantis’s rising star. Voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, he writes, won’t take to DeSantis when he inevitably hits the campaign trail and tries his hand at their traditional retail-style presidential politics.

Ironically, this weekend, the Democrat National Committee (DNC), pushed by President Joe Biden, decided that Iowa is too white and too Republican to keep its place at the head of the line in presidential politics. Iowa may yet ignore the DNC and move their own caucus into late 2023 to keep Iowa first, but it remains to be seen just how much Iowa’s “aw-shucks” politics will factor into the presidential plans of either party or any single candidate.

The shifting caucus dates aside, does the anti-DeSantis narrative really have any teeth? Do voters care whether or not their candidate is a master retail politician, a la Bill Clinton, or chummy and charismatic like George W. Bush?

Certainly those traits aren’t bad to have, but a growing body of evidence suggests they aren’t at the top of the list of requirements to earn voter support. And by pointing out personal flaws so early, might The Atlantic and its squad of Never Trumpers actually be doing DeSantis a favor by lowering expectations?

Many of the same personality criticisms have been repeated about Florida’s governor ad nauseum since 2010. Florida’s other governor, that is. Since his emergence on the political scene, Rick Scott has been on the receiving end of similar memes and narratives that suggest, like his successor DeSantis, he’s awkward, lacks empathy, and isn’t warm and fuzzy enough to succeed in politics.

Twelve years later, Scott has proven the critics wrong three times, winning the governor’s mansion in 2010, 2014 and his current U.S. Senate seat in 2018. And like DeSantis, he also beat Florida’s warmest and fuzziest retail politician, Charlie Crist. Later Scott came out on top against the slightly less warm-and-fuzzy, but still personally likable Bill Nelson. Scott earned his share of critics over that span, but many Democrats grudgingly admit that Scott’s methodical laser-focus on policy issues earned their respect.

Combining those data points with DeSantis’s own rise to prominence, and it’s difficult to see what all the personality hubbub is about. Warm and fuzzy is nice, but is it effective? AFP’s Zandar doesn’t see it as top-of-mind for most people.

“What voters care about is, can [a political candidate] do the job they were elected to do?” Zandar says. “Governor DeSantis has blown that requirement out of the water and voters in Florida spoke.”

Indeed. DeSantis cruised to a stunning 19-point blowout of the cuddly Charlie Crist, but he’s also shown he has the ability to win the hearts, minds, and wallets of people outside of Florida, too. Some of the most important GOP donors in the country have written fat campaign checks to DeSantis. Presumably, they too, would prefer him to be as charming as possible, but serious people don’t fork over tens of millions of dollars to someone without talking to them first and getting a feel for who they are. The bank account balance for Friends of Ron DeSantis is a pretty good metric for judging whether or not DeSantis has the ability to work a room full of mega donors.

Whether or not his effectiveness and fundraising skills can trump the charisma of others in 2024 remains to be seen. But it’s notable that an avowed group of Florida Never Trumpers is expending energy talking about DeSantis’s icy interpersonal skills rather than the latest drama surrounding Donald Trump.


  1. dmmorrison

    The Atlantic got it wrong. DeSantis’ real problem isn’t that he’s insufficiently warm and fuzzy, but that he’s a barely competent, deeply ideological, overly performative jerk.

  2. Daniel Rousseau

    The real danger of having DeSantis as president is that he’s a Donald Trump clone, but with a brain. He is arrogant, “holier-than-thou”, and believes his way is the only way. He has no interest in listening to anyone else’s views. DeSantis is another wannabee tin-horn dictator.

    • theunvanquishedtruth

      So Biden’s lack of a brain is not a problem?

      • dmmorrison

        It’s not a problem because it’s not a thing. Beneath that shambling, folksy front is a president who, contrary to many people’s expectations, gets things done. I can send you a list of his accomplishments, but I suspect you’re familiar with most, if not all of them.

  3. wjtinfwb

    Ha. What the Atlantic is trying to say but lacks the stones to is…. DeSantis doesn’t really care if you like him. He has a job to do and the necessary tools to do the job are policy, strength, resolve and personal integrity. The press and American people have turned the politics of governing into the equivalent of voting for Prom queen. Pretty, glib, tell me what I want to hear, tell me that my opinion is important and that you’re looking out for me. That’s not how a large organization, be it a company or a country is run effectively. I’m not looking for a friend in DC, I’m looking for a leader and a person of principle that I can get behind. A total jackass like Biden can get elected on his lies and phony smile but quickly gets exposed as a fraud. The results in Florida speak for themselves. DeSantis willingness to take in a behemoth like Disney for something he believes in is evidence of his strength, even if you disagree with his views. I’ll take strong and blunt over warm and fuzzy every time.

    • dmmorrison

      Sorry, but what’s that job DeSantis has to do? Censor classrooms? Pack local school boards with his ideological toadies? Hide Covid statistics? Curb women’s rights? Pick pointless fights with everybody? Using taxpayer money to send Texas migrants to Martha’s Vineyard? Sorry, all that performative nonsense is definitely in Florida’s interests. He’s making the state a joke punchline.

  4. theunvanquishedtruth

    DeSantis is a savvy politician who has skillfully guided Florida during a Global Pandemic. Too skillfully! We have too many people running to Florida and they are driving up our housing prices, crowding our roads and causing multiple car accidents! I wish he would do like Oregon and discourage relocation to Florida for anything other than businesses and business owners. I’m a homeowner so I benefit from these rapidly escalating home costs, but I hate seeing native Floridians being driven out of the housing market!

    We are nowhere near the start of political ads for the 2024 elections, but apparentlyriots the Atlantic is already firing up its character assasination articles, while ignoring the realities exposed by the contents of THE LAPTOP! Considering that our “cuddly” Presidents like Kennedy, Clinton, et al were ALL serial cheaters and used the White House as their personal bordello, I think that a more taciturn and bluntly honest president in the mold of Truman and Lincoln might be a welcome change.

    Isn’t it ironic that America showed that it WAS colorblind when it elected our first Black President who then brought us the worst racial riots and encouraged decisions that set up Washington and California for horrific waves of violence and blatant theft while the defunded police stand powerlessly by. After all, if they actually shoot these murderous thieves they will be jailed for doing their job! Obama made himself rich off the largesse of the WOKE businesses like Netflix and his backroom dealing, but no one talks about how a pair of low pay civil servants managed to acquire a mansion in Martha’s Vineyard and a new on the beach in Hawaii. I love how Elon Musk is showing the censorship and lies perpetuated by Twitter!

    • Deborah Coffey

      Guided Florida through a pandemic? How many dead Floridians are there, including double the number of kids when he forced them to begin school without masks? How many?

    • dmmorrison

      Sorry, but the “worst racial riots” occurred under white presidents.

  5. Frederick Edwards

    Known Florida Governors over 90 years both sides. LeRoy Collins Dem.promoted Florida the best,then there was Hayden Burns who had foresight to build the. Interstate system. Then comes Ron DeSantis the first guy to wake up folks that we needed to wake up the neighbors on the woke teaching in schools,how Disney has taken over our children minds. Yes he sent Illegals to Martha’s Vineyard but in the daytime. Not like Biden sponsored flights in the middle of night starting with Westchester County ,New York.plus several other cities we don’t know about. DeSantis is a good man like Collins and Burns,but what wrong is they say he is Republican ,makes no difference he has a good background, Yale. Naval officer, good family guy.and doesn’t BS like so many politicians and liberal media moguls do. He is no Coumo or Newsome he is Ron DeSantis a guy Me and my family can TRUST.

  6. GD

    DeSantis won’t be president because he is a full blown fascist, racist and against free speech unless it’s his way scold.
    Not even repub legislators like him as made them all mad pulling political stunts against them because they didn’t agree with everything he did so in revenge, he cut a lot of good projects, etc.
    The repub party best get their act together and get rid of the racist, fascist, liars that run your party now or you are history.
    What ever happened to decent conservatives as few repub are anymore?

  7. Deborah Coffey

    Well, Fascists aren’t normally warm and fuzzy. DeSantis is full-out fascist and that is why he will NEVER be president of these United States. Almost no one wants to be Florida. We’ve become a laughing stock except for the MAGA base.

  8. Roberth

    Many of these remarks remind me of the old adage “scratch a liberal and you’ll find a fascist.” They ALWAYS accuse you of everything they are and believe, are doing (or will do if given the chance). Yes, scratch a liberal and they bleed fascist. Believe it when I say THEY are NOT uncomfortable with fascist beliefs. NEVER believe these WOKE fanatics.

  9. Karen

    Not being a Florida native nor a member of either party, I wish DeSantis would realize, if he ever becomes President, that he shouldn’t be so angry all of the time and should be a unified of all of the American people.

    • Deborah Coffey

      DeSantis is smart enough to realize these things but, he knows he can’t win an election if isn’t enraged and God forbid, even tries to unify people. He needs the votes of the MAGA base, which says a lot about those folks, as well as DeSantis, doesn’t it?

    • Robert

      And most people are smart enough to know it’s WOKE media manipulation. If DeSantis is as angry and incompetent as implied, why did he win a LANDSLIDE election?

      • Deborah Coffey

        Cheating maybe?

  10. Robert

    Oh, puh-leeze! Even the fake WOKE media knows better than to challenge THAT landslide victory – c’mon, man. Just admit it, your boy LOST 😞

  11. Arthro

    DeSantis would destroy Biden. Democrats are doing all they can to discredit him, while people in Florida recognized what a great leader he is – so they gave him a 20 point victory over Crist.

  12. Theunis Botha

    DeSantis would be a fine president, because he is not one for only talking,but a person that is acting and getting things done.He is also a very intelligent person and a very competent leader. He is also a person that was in the military, and is very disciplined,and has enough backbone to stand up to Putin.Finally, he is a Christian put God first in his life and he also cares deeply for the well being of the American people.

%d bloggers like this: