Perhaps the most remarkable lesson from last month’s raid on Mar-a-Lago was the velocity at which Republicans rallied back around Donald Trump. Over the previous several months, after all, Trump’s standing among the G.O.P. establishment had been weakened by a series of exhausting revelations concerning January 6 and the rise of less baggage-laden ‘24 alternatives, most notably Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Just as the media spotlight was beginning to lock onto Tallahassee, however, the F.B.I. descended on Palm Beach. The former president’s allies were practically jubilant. “Never let a crisis go to waste,” a source close to Trump told me at the time, previewing the Fukushima-level Fox News meltdown to come. “I think this basically makes it impossible for a DeSantis [run] now,” another Trumpworld advisor suggested.
Since then, of course, Trump’s martyr narrative has become more complicated. As it turns out, Trump did have confidential and top secret records stored improperly at his South Florida resort—in desks, in the basement, stuffed into bankers boxes—just as the Justice Department claimed. At least one of them appears to have pertained to a foreign government’s nuclear capabilities. Trump’s attempts to stymie the investigation with the appointment of a “special master” backfired miserably, after his legal team refused to pony up any documents proving that the documents had been declassified, as he belatedly claimed. A Politico-Morning Consult poll released this morning found that Trump’s popularity declined by five points among Republicans over the past month, from 57 to 52 percent—a sign that, perhaps, the F.B.I. raid was not the permanently galvanizing event that Trumpworld had hoped.
DeSantis, meanwhile, hatched plans for a high-octane, attention-grabbing, lib-triggering political stunt straight from the brainpan of Tucker Carlson: rounding up Venezuelan migrants, packing them onto charter flights, and dumping them, unannounced, on Martha’s Vineyard. The resulting outcry was, presumably, exactly what DeSantis had intended when the operation was conducted last week: Left-leaning institutions from MSNBC to the Times editorial board were outraged, while the right-wing media ecosystem erupted in applause. DeSantis wasn’t the first Republican governor to conceive of shipping undocumented immigrants to so-called sanctuary cities, but his cruel twist on the gimmick—transporting the border crisis over 3,000 miles to an offshore, liberal enclave—was a genuine innovation in the culture wars.