MATTHEWS: Ron DeSantis chooses right approach in response to Trump attacks 

Incumbent Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, his wife Casey and their children on stage after speaking to supporters at an election night party after winning his race for reelection in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Though Election Day was good for Republicans in both North Carolina and Florida, it was a disappointing one nationally for the party. 

Democrats are projected to keep control of the U.S. Senate, with the only remaining Senate race yet to be decided being the one between Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock and GOP nominee Herschel Walker, which will go to a runoff on Dec. 6. Even if Walker wins, that would keep the Senate at 50-50 Republican and Democrat, with Vice President Kamala Harris being the tiebreaking vote for Democrats. 

As of this writing, House Republicans, whose polling indicated would see a red wave of significant proportions, stand only to have a bare minimum majority at best once all the votes are counted from the outstanding races. 

So while the “what went wrong” discussions are already underway, another intraparty battle of sorts is taking place thanks to recent comments made by former President Donald Trump about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

In late 2021 going into 2022, the mainstream media were shaping the narrative that the two didn’t like each other, suggesting Trump was telling those close to him in so many words that he didn’t like DeSantis and that he thought he was stealing his thunder with the party. 

Six months into the numerous media reports, both Trump and DeSantis smartly and openly declared in separate statements that the press was purposely manufacturing tension between the two ahead of the 2022 midterm elections as a way of splitting the party in two. 

But not quite a week before the election, Trump — who it has been rumored may declare his 2024 candidacy this week — began publicly referring to DeSantis by a new nickname: “Ron DeSanctimonious.” And though he told Florida voters during an election-eve rally for Sen. Marco Rubio to vote for DeSantis and admitted after the election that he voted for DeSantis, Trump has remained on the attack against the popular red state governor, essentially claiming that he (Trump) was a kingmaker for DeSantis and saying, in a nutshell, that DeSantis has not been appreciative enough for allegedly putting him on the national political map. 

“The Fake News asks him if he’s going to run if President Trump runs, and he says, ‘I’m only focused on the Governor’s race, I’m not looking into the future.’ Well, in terms of loyalty and class, that’s really not the right answer,” Trump wrote on the issue of DeSantis refusing to answer questions about his possible 2024 intentions. 

That, along with Trump teasing he allegedly has some dirty laundry on DeSantis, was a clear threat to DeSantis, who some polls suggest could best Trump in a potential GOP presidential primary matchup. 

To his credit, DeSantis has refused to take the bait, choosing not to comment on Trump’s antics and instead prioritizing the residents of his state, who have been hit with two devastating hurricanes over the last two months: Ian and Nicole, both of which battered the Florida coastline and devastated communities. 

In staying out of Trump’s (so far) one-way war on him, DeSantis is also allowing his record as Florida governor, and the results of last week’s elections in Florida, to speak for themselves while at the same time allowing Trump’s attacks on him to play out in the Republican Party. 

Judging by the reactions I’ve seen, even among many Trump faithful, what he’s doing is not playing out well, which perhaps may be the strongest signal yet that Trump’s pull with loyalists is not as strong as it once was. 

DeSantis won’t stay quiet on the attacks forever. But for now, his strategy is working because if there’s one thing that drives Trump crazier than “fake news,” it’s being ignored by those he criticizes the most. 

As always, stay tuned. 

North Carolina native Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a media analyst and regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection.