We all know that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is awkward, out of touch, and consistently polling at least 20 points behind Donald Trump, and he just keeps stepping in shit—this time, with boat shoes on. In attempting to criticize Trump and his supporters, DeSantis used a boating metaphor that sounds like it was cooked up by a dorky English professor.
“The movement has got to be about what are you trying to achieve on behalf of the American people. And that’s got to be based in principle,” DeSantis said in an interview with the Florida Standard published Saturday. “Because if you’re not rooted in principle, if all we are is listless vessels that are just supposed to follow whatever happens to come down the pike on Truth Social every morning, that’s not going to be a durable movement.”
Tell me you only know how to talk to wealthy voters without telling me. This man cannot help but sound like a dweeb when trying to dunk on Trump. His campaign has struggled to get traction among small-dollar donors, and DeSantis loves to travel by private plane, but sure, keep talking like someone who frequents a yacht club, that’ll help. And for good measure, make a comment that could be construed as criticizing the very voters you need to win over!
The website Florida Politics unsurprisingly characterized the comment this way: “Ron DeSantis rips Donald Trump supporters as ‘listless vessels.’” And Trump world immediately pounced, comparing the moment to a 2016 speech in which Hillary Clinton said she would sort bigoted Trump voters into a “basket of deplorables.”
A spokesperson for the Trump-aligned PAC Make America Great Again Inc. said in a statement: “To Hillary Clinton, Trump supporters are ‘deplorables.’ To Ron DeSantis, they are ‘listless vessels.’ The truth is, Trump supporters are patriots.” Trump advisor Jason Miller tweeted that DeSantis “just had his ‘Basket of Deplorables’ moment. Not good!”
DeSantis press secretary Bryan Griffin repeated the strange phrase on Twitter, while trying to argue that DeSantis was talking about Republican lawmakers, not voters: “Donald Trump and some congressional endorsers are ‘listless vessels.’ Why? Because Trump and D.C. insiders feel he is entitled to your vote.” (He then tried to spin it into a dunk on Trump not attending this Wednesday’s debate.)
Former Trump administration official and current DeSantis backer Ken Cuccinelli then debased himself in defense of the strange comment on CNN, and seemed to contradict Griffin’s clean-up attempts. “He’s talking about the more general environment and referring to all of us collectively,” Cuccinelli said. “We can’t just sit back and take all of this and be listless vessels. We have to move ahead with a different vision that was not Trump-assigned.”
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) was asked about it on Fox News on Saturday. “I don’t know why anyone running for president would put down half of the electorate and identify them, call them listless vessels because they support the former president,” Mace said. “Why Ron DeSantis would do that while his numbers are tanking is really beyond me.”
I think the explanation is simply that the governor is a very bad presidential candidate. DeSantis is a man so awkward that even people who would never vote for the guy say they feel bad for him. I’m not joking, the Washington Post recently ran a story titled “Awkward Americans see themselves in Ron DeSantis.” One New Jersey voter, Kate Ecke, said, “Every time I watch the videos, I cringe, but I’m cringing because I’ve been that person.” (She followed it up with this: “Given the decision between voting for him and getting a Pap smear from a girl I went to high school with, hand me the paper gown.”)
I still have other questions, though. Did the campaign workshop this “listless vessels” critique? Did they mean to reference Ron’s service as a Navy lawyer? Is it that they actually wanted to call Trump loyalists something more like robots but couldn’t because DeSantis himself gets compared to an android?
Anyway, if anyone on the debate stage Wednesday references “listless vessels,” you have to drink.