Howard Kurtz: Conservative media tilts from Trump to DeSantis

Trump ready to run, as many blame him for midterms, but his base will decide

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With Democrats somehow keeping control of the Senate in an absolutely awful political environment, Donald Trump is getting the lion’s share of the blame.

So of course he’s announcing his presidential candidacy tonight.

From media liberals and Democrats who can hardly believe their good fortune to some conservative pundits and Republican politicians, the consensus is that Trump took the focus off an unpopular President Biden and made the election all about him.

He was at it again over the weekend, with screeds against Ron ‘DeSanctimonious’ and Glenn ‘Young Kin,’ not to mention Fox, fake news and Old Crow Mitch McConnell, bringing back that slur about his wife, Coco Chow. Trump also claimed without evidence that there was voter fraud in Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly’s win over his guy, Blake Masters, when everyone knew (and endlessly explained) that mail ballots counted after Election Day could enable Democrats to catch up and possibly win.


A man with a Trump 2024 flag is pictured outside Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida following an FBI raid on Donald Trump’s private home.
(Alon Skuy/Fox News Digital)

That Biden’s party could hold the Senate without next month’s Georgia runoff is remarkable. But the president sure would like to have a 51st vote out of the Herschel Walker-Raphael Warnock runoff or Joe Manchin again becomes the Democrat with the biggest nuclear weapon. 

With 2020 hindsight it’s clear that what was lost in all the red wave talk (which went far beyond Fox, as I showed on “Media Buzz”) is that younger people turned out in much greater numbers than expected, and that abortion rights drove turnout more forcefully among suburban white women and others.

There was also the preserving democracy argument, and President Biden’s prime-time speech on that issue, which I and others viewed as a missed opportunity while the country was focused on inflation and crime. Turns out Biden may have motivated some folks to get out there.

Every election denier who ran for secretary of state or top elections official was defeated. And there was ticket splitting, with a more conventional Republican like Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp winning by a significant margin while Walker was held below 50 percent. There was a lot of hype about Trump-backed Tudor Dixon being in a tight race, but Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer beat her by just over double digits.

Trump was back at it for his Arizona gubernatorial candidate, election denier Kari Lake, who could still win but has fallen a bit further behind as more votes are counted. He said “the great Kari Lake’s easy election win is slowly, yet systematically, being drained away from her,” as if there were something nefarious about continuing the ballot count. 

So how will Trump’s telegraphed announcement tonight play out? MSNBC and CNN are likely to provide heavy coverage because they miss the Trumpian ratings of his presidency. The conservative media outlets and commentators – from the New York Post and Wall Street Journal to National Review and Washington Examiner, some of which favor DeSantis, will criticize his candidacy from the right.

Former President Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Mike Pence, who’s eyeing the race, said in an interview with ABC’s David Muir what everyone in America knows but that he hasn’t uttered until now:

“The president’s words were reckless and his actions were reckless,” Pence said of Trump tweeting that his VP “lacked the courage” to block Biden’s Electoral College circulation. 

“The president’s words that day at the rally endangered me and my family and everyone at the Capitol building,” Pence said. “I turned to my daughter, who was standing nearby, and I said, ‘It doesn’t take courage to break the law. It takes courage to uphold the law.’”


And listen to Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, a onetime Trump ally, speaking to

“It would be a bad mistake for the Republicans to have Donald Trump as their nominee in 2024. Donald Trump has proven himself to be dishonest, disloyal, incompetent, crude and a lot of other things that alienate so many independents and Republicans.” 

What gives? Brooks lost Trump’s endorsement and lost his primary. So can most Republicans only say such things when they’re leaving office.

But slow down – we haven’t heard from the voters yet. For all the times that the media have declared Trump finished, including after Jan. 6, his iron grip on the MAGA base has rescued him.

We don’t even know whether DeSantis will run, and if he does, he’s untested as a national candidate.

Conservatives rushed to Twitter on Tuesday to spike the football when GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis was projected to defeat Charlie Crist to secure another term as Florida’s chief executive. 

Conservatives rushed to Twitter on Tuesday to spike the football when GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis was projected to defeat Charlie Crist to secure another term as Florida’s chief executive. 
(James Gilbert/Getty Images)

If Trump is the nominee, as I’ve been saying for a long time, it’s far more likely that Biden will run as the only person who has beaten him. And all the Democrats who have clamored for a younger candidate have yet to name the person who can beat Trump after a negative onslaught.The New York Times has an intriguing take on this, given that Biden is about to turn 80. While the midterms gave the president a boost, party insiders are deeply worried that Kamala Harris can’t win:

“While there are many other would-be contenders, none of them have impressed the president enough for him to feel comfortable turning the party over to them.


“Some Democrats argue that this is a situation of Mr. Biden’s own making, having failed to successfully groom a potential successor, consciously or not making himself the indispensable man. But either way, it leaves many Democrats circling back to the conclusion that Mr. Biden remains the party’s best choice.

I don’t think it was a Machiavellian plot, but if DeSantis or some other next-generation Republican wins the nomination, the pressure on Biden to step aside or be primaried will grow.

Or we may see a rematch after all. 

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