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Trump’s looming indictment is stealing DeSantis’ thunder

- Rex Huppke Follow USA TODAY columnist Rex Huppke on Twitter @ RexHuppke and Facebook facebook. com/ RexIsAJerk

Donald Trump must be giving Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis a bad case of “looming indictment envy.”

Republican­s are rallying around the former president as the nation waits to see if the Manhattan district attorney will file charges against him over alleged hush money paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

On the right, the prevailing wisdom – and I use that term loosely – is that an indictment will help Trump as he campaigns for the 2024 GOP presidenti­al nomination. That makes sense only if you inhabit a world where up is down, down is “woke” and you can spend eight years chanting “Lock her up!” at Hillary Clinton then say, with a straight face, that it’s outrageous that a politician might be charged with a crime.

Trump daydreams of a ‘ perp walk’ while DeSantis tries to be normal

The twice- impeached loser of the 2020 election seems giddy about the possibilit­y, telling followers on Saturday that he would be “arrested” Tuesday. In keeping with his brand, the date and the descriptio­n were lies – nothing happened Tuesday, and an “indictment” and an “arrest” are different things.

But that hasn’t kept Trump from reportedly fantasizin­g about a “perp walk,” daydreamin­g of looking tough while being led off in handcuffs and reaching what I’ll call “peak Caucasian persecutio­n complex.”

A looming indictment could be a game- changer for DeSantis

Meanwhile, DeSantis, who hasn’t announced he’s running for president but is widely expected to become Trump’s biggest opponent in the race, is gasping for what little oxygen is left in the room.

So the Florida governor needs something big to keep pace with Trump. He needs a looming indictment.

It’s clear the old political adage “getting indicted is bad” no longer applies, at least in Republican circles. Fox News reported that in the three days after Trump’s announceme­nt about his “arrest,” his campaign raised $ 1.5 million.

DeSantis swings at Trump, and MAGA bites back

When DeSantis dismissed the Trump news as a “manufactur­ed circus” and made a limp jab at the former president – saying on Monday, “I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair. I just, I can’t speak to that” – he was pilloried by MAGA Republican­s such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

She tweeted Tuesday: “Any Presidenti­al candidate that calls the political persecutio­n of Trump a ‘ sideshow’ is not capable of the job.”

Right- wing podcaster and noted weasel Steve Bannon called DeSantis “a weasel,” prompting Trump’s campaign to trumpet: “Steve Bannon calls Rob DeSantis a ‘ weasel.’ ” And yes, they spelled DeSantis’ first name “Rob” instead of “Ron,” adding insult to injury.

Maybe Ron ‘ Rob’ DeSantis could engage in some light sedition?

Clearly, DeSantis can’t fight back against all the money, attention and potential martyrdom ( assuming one doesn’t know what the word “martyr” means) Trump is getting.

No, my man Rob needs some legal trouble.

Trying to replicate Trump’s situation by paying hush money to an adult- film star would be lame, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and whatnot. So DeSantis needs to go bigger.

Not something as severe and serious as, say, possessing a small amount of marijuana.

I’m thinking an alleged crime somewhere between “saying the word ‘ gay’ in a Florida public school” and seditious conspiracy.

In Trump’s world, it may soon be raining looming indictment­s. DeSantis better pick up the pace.

I’ll leave it to the governor and his team to pick the crime, but they need to hustle, as it takes a while for an investigat­ion to reach the political sweet spot of “looming indictment.”

Remember, Trump is facing a slew of other criminal investigat­ions, from the Mar- a- Lago classified documents case to the Georgia election interferen­ce case.

The former president could be sitting on nearly a half- dozen looming indictment­s before the year is up, all but wiping out the Florida governor’s chances in the primary.

If I’m being honest, DeSantis might want to sit this presidenti­al election out and give himself time to burnish his aura of criminalit­y. Because right now, it looks like Trump could run his campaign from a jail cell and still win the GOP nomination, leaving ol’ Rob “Weasel” DeSantis in the Republican Party’s Jeb Bush Memorial Dust Bin.

 ?? BUTCH DILL/ AP ?? President Donald Trump campaigns for Florida gubernator­ial candidate Ron DeSantis in 2018. The two now are potential rivals for your attention.
BUTCH DILL/ AP President Donald Trump campaigns for Florida gubernator­ial candidate Ron DeSantis in 2018. The two now are potential rivals for your attention.
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