The 2018 midterms are less than 100 days away, which means Americans are about to start seeing a lot of campaign commercials, if they aren’t already. While Democrats have tried to appeal to the working class, the go-to strategy for Republican candidates has been to pander to President Trump’s base. Brian Kemp secured the Republican nomination for Georgia governor largely behind the strength of an attention-grabbing ad campaign in which, among other vignettes of red-blooded patriotism, he stares directly into the camera and cuts a stack of regulatory documents in half with a chainsaw.
Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis — in the news recently for describing Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a girl “or whatever she is” — is banking on a similar strategy in an effort to land the party’s nomination for governor of Florida. The commercial his campaign released Monday makes Kemp’s gun-toting, immigrant-wrangling displays of loyalty to Trump look like child’s play.
“Everyone knows my husband Ron DeSantis is endorsed by President Trump, but he’s also an amazing dad,” says DeSantis’ wife, Casey. We then see the candidate handing toy blocks to his toddler daughter, Madison, and encouraging her to “build the wall.” Then, he’s reading The Art of the Deal to his even-younger son, Mason, while quoting The Apprentice. Next, he’s back with Madison, teaching her how to talk. “Make-America-great-again,” DeSantis spells out while pointing at each word on a Trump campaign poster.
“People say Ron’s ‘all Trump,’ but he’s so much more,” Casey says sarcastically as Ron checks back in on their son, who is in a crib wearing a red “Make America Great Again” onesie.
The ad is lighthearted, but it’s also bizarre in that its message seems to be that DeSantis contains nothing of substance other than an undying loyalty to the president. Rolling Stone reached out to the DeSantis campaign seeking clarification.
“Ron DeSantis is an Iraq war veteran with a strong conservative record,” a representative said in an email. “The ad is just meant to reinforce the fact that the president is endorsing Ron and Ron has defended the president, in a funny tongue in cheek way. It’s just a bit of humor.”
Some may find humor in a commercial alleging that a candidate’s loyalty to Trump is so powerful that it has changed the way he raises his children. Others may find it pretty damn creepy. Conservatives have long been criticized — fairly or not — for lacking in the humor department, and while DeSantis’ ad is an obvious attempt at comedy, it also underscores the degree to which a growing number of Republican candidates have allowed Trumpism to consume their entire political identity.
Then again, at least DeSantis is being honest about his campaign, which now includes his baby in #MAGA merch. How DeSantis actually plans to improve the lives of those living in the state he seeks to govern is not only an afterthought — it’s irrelevant.