While all the talk of who will earn the GOP’s nomination for the White House in 2024 is largely contingent on whether former President Donald Trump mounts a second bid of his own, one of the top contenders said to be vying for his shot in the Oval Office already seems to be setting himself up for success.
In the wake of what can only be described as a hit-piece against the Florida governor on CBS’s 60 Minutes, Republican Ron DeSantis seems to be enjoying a much-appreciated boost to his “national political prospects,” The Washington Times reports.
The invention of a non-existent scandal
The transparently partisan hatchet-job on DeSantis was featured on 60 Minutes this week and centered around a vaguely presented — and swiftly debunked — theory about an alleged “pay-to-play” scheme involving the governor, Publix grocery stores, and a COVID-19 vaccine distribution deal.
According to the Times, CBS claimed that in exchange for a meager $100,000 campaign donation, Gov. DeSantis had granted Publix an exclusive deal to distribute vaccines at its more than 800 stores across Florida.
But Publix donates to both political parties, DeSantis wasn’t the one who came up with the idea for the deal, and it wasn’t exclusive, either, as the governor explained in a March press conference that was cut short by 60 Minutes in its report.
Even the Poynter Institute was forced to admit CBS botched the story:
Yes, Publix donated to DeSantis’ reelection campaign. But that is neither illegal nor unusual. Big companies often donate to political campaigns of both major parties. Yet the 60 Minutes piece used that as the main evidence for its premise that DeSantis did something shady. They really didn’t have much else on that topic. There was really no there there.
Story helps more than it hurts
Indeed, while 60 Minutes no doubt hoped to draw scrutiny to DeSantis over the deal, The Washington Times notes that the governor “appears to have turned the tables on the venerable network news show.”
Many pundits, including CNN’s Chris Cillizza and Vanity Fair‘s Charlotte Klein, have since acknowledged that the CBS report likely helped bolster DeSantis’ already rising standing among likely GOP presidential primary voters.
Republican strategist Mike McKenna, who worked in the Trump White House, laid out exactly why in comments to the Times. “First, it shows that he is a target of the media crowd, which legitimizes him among all sorts of people. CBS only sends 60 Minutes to hit jobs either on the weak or on people whom they fear. The governor is in the second category,” McKenna said.
“Second, the whole episode has shown everyone that he has a considerable amount of grit, which may be the single most important ingredient in political success at this level,” the GOP strategist and Times columnist added.
Joe Concha, a media critic for The Hill, reached a similar conclusion in a lengthy op-ed slamming CBS for its shoddy reporting. “Here’s a question, by the way: When exactly is 60 Minutes going to do some reporting on a governor who is under two major investigations over a possible cover-up around nursing home deaths?” Concha added. “His name is Andrew Cuomo.”