One-time Trump aide: DeSantis is clear choice for nomination

One-time Trump aide: DeSantis is clear choice for nomination

One-time Trump aide: DeSantis is clear choice for nomination

Ken Cuccinelli isn't the only key member of Donald Trump's team no longer around for the 2024 presidential run. But he's the only one who has started a Political Action Committee supporting Ron DeSantis, Trump's chief rival for the Republican nomination.

NeverBackDown.org is the group's website, and its main page features a petition to allow people to encourage DeSantis to run for president. Florida's legislative session ends today – and most observers think the Florida governor will answer those calls and jump in the race soon.

Cuccinelli explains that his PAC is not anti-Trump but pro-DeSantis. "His leadership accomplishments have been stunning. I mean, he's been the best chief executive in every respect in the last couple of decades, not just the last couple of years, but the last couple of decades," Cuccinelli said on American Family Radio Thursday.

The former Virginia attorney general, Cuccinelli was #2 at Homeland Security in Trump's administration. He was also Trump's pick to lead the agency responsible for processing immigration requests though that selection was challenged in court.

Down in polls but is DeSantis the clear choice?

Now Cuccinelli (pictured below) says DeSantis is the clear choice to help Republicans take back the White House and stop President Joe Biden's liberal agenda.

"You look at the how the whole world was coming down on his head for his COVID freedom efforts, but his judgment in dealing with crises in Florida – and they happen usually in the form of hurricanes – has been unmatched. Other people perhaps could have done these things and didn't. No one's done it as well as DeSantis … no president or governor in any state. It's been really quite a performance," Cuccinelli told show host Jenna Ellis.

The latest average of polling data from RealClearPolitics shows Trump with 52% support for the nomination followed by the unannounced DeSantis at 23%.

Cuccinelli says DeSantis' reelection performance in the 2022 governor's race cemented his status as a key player in presidential politics.

"Ten years from now we may look back on 2022 and decide Florida stopped being a swing state with that election. That election was orchestrated, run and led by Gov. DeSantis, and it was on his accomplishments that he amassed over the previous four years without ever backing down from his conservative constitutional principles. It was really quite impressive."

On the very night he secured his second term as Florida governor, media pegged him as a Trump rival for the 2024 nomination. He won reelection by almost 20 points and in the process carried traditional Democratic strongholds like Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.

Cuccinelli was particularly struck by DeSantis' success in Miami-Dade.

"I think regular Republicans get the notion. There aren't too many counties in America you could name that ordinary voters from one side or the other would understand the significance of that, but Miami-Dade is one of them. People get what an incredible accomplishment that is, and winning that by double digits, then by the way, flipping the school board, which he also did."

Cuccinelli praised Trump policies but questioned his management style, particularly as it relates to personnel. Trump's willingness to sacrifice loyalty to agenda and policies to loyalty to himself made it hard to get things done, he added.

Random hiring policy made things difficult

"There was an almost random quality to his personnel decisions. It really hurt our ability to get things done when he was president," Cuccinelli shared. "Virtually everyone at the national level that worked on the president's 2016 campaign [now] isn't there? Why not? Speaking just for myself from in the administration, as much as I appreciated the policies that were pursued, frankly, I was outnumbered in the White House trying to pursue the president's own policies on immigration. It was an uphill fight to get to his own agenda."

Many believed Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner was a policy roadblock. While the president talked about building a wall and made loud threats to shut down the southern border, Kushner worked on a plan to increase legal immigration.

Trump himself had expressed some support for a legal immigration plan that could have put more highly skilled workers into waiting jobs. Some, though, believed Kushner's views to be too moderate and a distraction from the border-dominant image Trump portrayed and hard-line conservatives preferred.

"Jared Kushner wasn't an ally yet he reflected Trump, and that was a huge problem," Cuccinelli said. "President Trump thinks he's picking people who are loyal to him, but what you need to pick is people loyal to the agenda because it's supposed to be about America, not about the leader – and DeSantis gets that."

In some ways, Trump shot himself in the foot

Cuccinelli said DeSantis has shown leadership in his positions against corporations like Disney, Bud Light and Airbnb while also working for the betterment of Florida Republicans in other races. That stands in stark contrast, he says, to Trump whose indifference or outright hostility toward the election process caused many Republican voters to stay home.

The former Trump aide also contends the former president has seen the power of his endorsement wane.

"In the last three election cycles, unfortunately and to our great harm, the president has proven to have a negative coattail effect. You look at a 51-49 Senate, which by the way should be a Republican Senate but for President Trump essentially scaring away our own voters in Georgia, those special elections we now know we lost. Here, years later, he's now finally saying, 'You know, we've got to use every tool in the toolbox to try to win these races.'

"Well, it would've been nice to say that all along," Cuccinelli laments. "We might've won more races."

AFN reported yesterday that even though DeSantis hasn't officially put his hat in the ring for the GOP presidential nomination, his "Florida blueprint" offers the public an idea what his administration would look like.