One of the lesser known Dirty Harry catchphrases, a distant third behind “Do you feel lucky, punk?” and “Go ahead, make my day,” is “A man’s got to know his limitations.” It’s more of an aspersion than friendly advice, and it is in that first spirit I borrow it to describe the tragic lack of self-knowledge of the hapless Florida governor, Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis is exactly the kind of guy Doctors Dunning and Kruger had in mind. He doesn’t know enough to know he doesn’t know enough. Specifically, he doesn’t know enough to know he’s shockingly unfit to be president of the United States. And while we’re in the neighbourhood, he doesn’t even know enough to be governor of Florida, for that matter.
Ordinarily, people who have been bamboozled by a charlatan stay bamboozled, because it’s too painful for them to admit when they’ve made a mistake. Usually that would make the governor’s astonishing 60% re-election landslide in 2022 a safe indicator of his dependable popularity in Florida. But recent indications are that DeSantis has made such a toxic wasteland of his reputation with his boneheaded presidential campaign that he’s losing popularity at a surprising rate — even in Florida.
DeSantis’ power in the sunshine state isn’t what it was before he launched his ill-advised presidential run. Old allies are abandoning him because his presidential run is frankly so stupid he’s managed to turn people off on both sides of the issues.
Republican state Representative Daniel Perez was undoubtedly thinking of DeSantis when he told his colleagues this week to be careful going forward, because the “problem with wielding the power of government like a hammer is that the people start looking like nails.” Even the governor’s old backer, billionaire Ken Griffin, has yet to support the governor’s presidential run, citing his “weird feud” with Disney. He said he doesn’t know who DeSantis is trying to win over.
One after another the governor’s power base is slipping out from under him. Even his staunch former allies are starting to notice what we’ve noticed all along, that he has the charisma of a doorknob and less of the common touch than just about any other presidential candidate since Richard Nixon.
But even Nixon had something, and that something is something DeSantis also lacks, political savvy. If Ron DeSantis weren’t such a toxic asshole I would actually feel sorry for him.
Much of his problem is with Florida’s legislature. “There’s no love lost between the legislature and DeSantis,” one Tallahassee lobbyist recently told the news organisation Politico. “They are waiting long enough to see the king drained of all his power. It’s a slow-motion coup.”
They won’t have long to wait. There is no surviving this presidential run for DeSantis, and as of 2026 he will officially be out of a job. Florida has a two term limit for its governors.
The only place for DeSantis to go next might be sideways into the Senate. But again, he’s so disliked in Florida by so many people a defeat might be more than his fragile ego could handle. Nixon managed to survive a humiliating defeat after his 1962 run for governor of California on top of losing his first presidential bid to John F Kennedy in 1960. But DeSantis also lacks Nixon’s resilience.
I’m going to take a very easy chance and write Ron DeSantis’ political epitaph right now. So, “Here lies — in every sense of the word — Florida governor Ron DeSantis, a man who never learned his limitations. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.” And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.