Former Ron DeSantis aide looks back on a ‘downright embarrassing’ campaign

Desantis sonnerad image via Twitter
Nate Hochman left the campaign as a scapegoat. Now he's offering a post-mortem.

The Florida Governor’s currently suspended presidential campaign is offering an opportunity for those who were part of the effort to sound off about what went wrong.

Former speechwriter Nate Hochman left the Ron DeSantis campaign in July and reportedly was let go after he shared a video with DeSantis’s face superimposed on a “Sonnenrad,” a symbol used by the German Nazi party.

Months after the dissociation, Hochman is having his say about that incident, and about the campaign writ large in The American Conservative.

Regarding the Sonnenrad, he writes that what is “true is that I retweeted a video containing what I would later come to learn was a Sonnenrad and immediately un-retweeted said video and alerted my superiors on the campaign staff when I learned what the symbol meant.”

“From there, the reporting graduated to the claim that I made the video and then to the speculation that I had also made an anti-LGBT video that had landed the campaign in hot water weeks prior. That reporting was categorically false,” Hochman said, though he is polite enough not to blame his former colleagues on that campaign for failing to correct reporting that wasn’t true.

The iconography of the campaign certainly didn’t help DeSantis, but Hochman points to other problems with the candidate and the operation, including what the videos associated with him and other such edgelord memes said about the campaign’s failure to connect with voters or even project the image of the “real” DeSantis.

“The Twitter videos that were publicly linked to my exit from the campaign were part and parcel of the increasingly extreme, and haphazard, attempts to substitute ideology for authenticity. If DeSantis could get as far to Trump’s right as possible, the thinking went, then the mystical hold Trump possessed over his voter base could be broken. This betrayed a subtle but fundamental misunderstanding of human nature — a conception of the average voter as homo ideologicus, driven by formal philosophical commitments.”

Hochman argues that “the underwhelming — at times, downright embarrassing — way DeSantis prosecuted his case teaches many lessons about what has become of the set of institutions that we used to call ‘movement conservatism’ and the increasingly apparent chasm between those institutions and the broader political forces animating the Republican Party.”

Helping to undermine the Governor’s case, Hochman admits, were DeSantis’ tics that did not translate to the scrutiny of the national stage. “There was the odd laugh; the bright-white rain boots; the ‘leg-lengthening footwear’; the nose-wiping video clip; and an endless number of weird facial expressions and awkward interactions with the public.”

Compounding these failures was a campaign team that seemed unable to guide its candidate to making a remotely compelling case.

“The MAGA offensive against DeSantis was a one-sided war. There was little to no attempt to stage a counteroffensive because the DeSantis team failed to grasp the terms of the battle. The way DeSantis made the case for himself had all the same flaws. His pitch to Republican voters was often described as ‘Trumpism without (Donald) Trump,’ ‘Trump without the drama,’ ‘Trump but competent,’ and so on. It would be more accurate to call it a technocrat’s Trumpism,” Hochman said.

“The issue set was substantively similar. The distinction was drawn along the lines of administrative ability. DeSantis would rattle off his impressive policy achievements like he was reading a grocery list — check, check, check — before concluding that we needed someone who could ‘get the job done.’ A senior staffer, in a moment of private frustration, described him to me as ‘the Home Depot candidate.'”

Hochman notes that he had one interaction with DeSantis that wasn’t stilted in March 2023, when he was in his “first week as a speechwriter on the Florida governor’s as-of-then unannounced presidential campaign.”

“I suggested he talk about trade policy in an upcoming New Hampshire speech. He laughed — a real laugh, revealing a brief, transitory glimpse of a man with an actual sense of humor — at a joke I made about fundraising emails. I thanked him for the opportunity, shook his hand, and walked out of the office and back to my desk.”

Will other DeSantis alums offer their own campaign confessionals? And will Hochman’s former colleagues offer their own takes on the man they all thought would be President roughly a year ago?

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


21 comments

  • Michael K

    February 13, 2024 at 4:36 pm

    Not just embarrassing – it’s one of the worst campaigns in modern history. They burned through more than $150 million on a weak and horrible candidate who didn’t win a single county in Iowa. The only “winners” in the massively flawed DeSanti campaign were the owners of the private jets and luxury hotels where the DeSanti indulged in their fantasies of a “Confederate Camelot” that thankfully, shall never come to pass.

    And Florida is left cleaning up the mess and footing the bill. Resign to run was put in place for good reasons.

    • Impeach Biden

      February 13, 2024 at 4:50 pm

      Exactly how is Florida footing the bill on his Presidential campaign? You read that on Facebook or Tik-Tok?

      • JD

        February 13, 2024 at 5:52 pm

        Washington Post is trying to find out and they had to sue to get public documents that are covered under the SUNSHINE LAWS.

        You don’t hide records as a governor unless you did something shady. It’s not like Florida has “security secrets, especially after the fact.

        Let’s talk about security detail for his envoys? We’ll see what turns up before it’s “scrubbed”.

        • rick whitaker

          February 13, 2024 at 8:49 pm

          i’m waiting for someone to throw desantis under the bus, drop a dime, snitch, flip, or something to generate a few felony counts so that desantis goes to jail. if anyone has a document, tape, or record to turn in to the media that points to desantis’ guilt, please act on it soon.

        • MH/Duuuval

          February 14, 2024 at 10:36 pm

          Yeah, there was that unfortunate road accident in Tennessee when the Dee caravan had a fender bender. Wasn’t Dee at the wheel, probably FHP.

        • Ron DiSaster

          February 14, 2024 at 10:53 pm

          “You don’t hide records as a governor unless you did something shady.”

          A little louder for the MAGAT’s in back!

      • Michael K

        February 13, 2024 at 6:22 pm

        The “policies” that he used to propel the narrative of his failed campaign cost Florida taxpayers millions – in lawsuits alone – aided and abetted by a Republican legislature that changed laws to favor his ruinous campaign. All on top of the misuse of travel and security.

      • MH/Duuuval

        February 15, 2024 at 10:41 am

        “You read that on Facebook or Tik-Tok?”

        I’m not on either — too complicated for Neanderthal. I depend on network TV and PBS, NPR, paid online subscriptions to legacy media, and a few sites online that are transparent and have proved reliable.

        What you got — besides RT and MAGA propaganda?

      • Cheesy Floridian

        February 15, 2024 at 12:58 pm

        That is a great question why don’t we look over the public records and files? Oh wait… DeSantis signed a law that shields that from us. Even though we are supposed to have the best open gov. laws on the books.

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  • Lex

    February 14, 2024 at 8:45 am

    This was an impossible battle. Desantis was a gentile Donald Trump, which should have been exactly what voters wanted… A fighter who would not punch below the belt but who would actually fight, unlike a RINO. Trump is less establishment. Trump’s impolite memes are seen as genuine by many grassroots. Once Trump was indicted, it made Trump a martyr. This was impossible. Not saying Desantis and his team did not make their share of mistakes, but there was never really a political opening in this election cycle. Sadly the opening will probably occur later after convictions in some of the Democratic jurisdictions, and the true question of whether Donald Trump can amass any votes outside of the Republican Party. Possibly the best strategy would have been to be a polite option other than Trump and otherwise be glowingly praising and just amass delegates in case the party decided to change horses after Trump almost assuredly is wrongfully convicted in at least one or two jurisdictions.

    • Joe

      February 14, 2024 at 9:45 am

      Tiny D’s campaign was one big mistake compounded daily by his insular team’s presumption and arrogance. Team Desanctus is incapable of anything resembling “politeness.”

      And any convictions coming Trump’s way will be well and truly earned. Turn off Fox News for your own good.

    • MH/Duuuval

      February 14, 2024 at 11:33 am

      “…Trump almost assuredly is wrongfully convicted in at least one or two jurisdictions.”

      No faith in the jury system, eh?

      • Dont Say FLA

        February 14, 2024 at 11:36 am

        I’ll bet “it’s rigged” Again. I wonder how many times PPP Trump can make that claim and have his fanboys continue to buy it?

        • MH/Duuuval

          February 14, 2024 at 10:48 pm

          Deep, dark state is always out there trying to subvert DJT — whose son-in-law lives at 666 Fifth Avenue.

    • Dont Say FLA

      February 14, 2024 at 11:34 am

      Trump will “almost assuredly [be] wrongfully convicted”

      Have you seen the evidence? My understanding it there’s a ton of it, and the evidence that isn’t on paper comes out the mouths of Republicans that worked for Putin’s Pocket Pussy.

      • MH/Duuuval

        February 14, 2024 at 10:50 pm

        I hope to read (skim!) soon the 100-page Senate Intelligence committee report from 2022 with Rubio as minority leader. Report details DJT and Putin colluding to defeat Hil in 2016.

  • JEAN SOLOMON

    February 14, 2024 at 10:13 am

    had DESANTIS just been ;himself’ maybe he would have had a different outcome; sadly, he chose to try to imitate a man who has been lying, cheating etc., his whole life…and whoever advised him to wear those silly white rainboots? IMO; his awkwardness came form trying to imitate Trumpf..a man who has haD a life time to perfect his corruption..personally, i prefer a ‘florida man’, with all his faults, to a corrupt thug ,a carpetbagger from NYC..

    • MH/Duuuval

      February 14, 2024 at 10:52 pm

      Dee is waxing and we are seeing his true self: autocrat, team captain, boss man. Ironically, he has been taking orders from DJT even as he is ordering about Floridians.

  • Margaret

    February 16, 2024 at 11:14 am

    When you start with Trump as the standard to surpass in the same category, you have already lost to a loser. De Santis was never going to be awful enough to surpass Trump, who is genuinely evil. DeSantis’s problem is that he is a Xenophobe, Bigot, and terribly limited thinker. His time in the Governorship is an embarrasment to the State. I knew, from the start, when the NYT and WaPo were promoting him at the beginning of his campaign, that he would not wear well on the National stage.

Comments are closed.


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