To keep pace with Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis needs a looming indictment for the clout

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 whether the Manhattan district attorney will file charges against him over alleged hush money paid to adult film 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 presidential election seems almost giddy about the possibility, telling his MAGA followers on Saturday that he would be “arrested” Tuesday. In keeping with his brand, both the date and the description were lies – nothing happened Tuesday, and an “indictment” and an “arrest” are two different things.

Stormy Daniels, an adult film star whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is central to the case Manhattan prosecutors are building against former President Donald Trump.
Stormy Daniels, an adult film star whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is central to the case Manhattan prosecutors are building against former President Donald Trump.

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

Will Trump get arrested?: Between sketchy witnesses and the law, case comes up short.

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 that he was going to be arrested, his campaign raised $1.5 million.

Trumps wants you to think he's the victim: Maybe he's just a bad dude.

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 affair. I just, I can’t speak to that” – he was pilloried by MAGA Republicans such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.

Greene 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 release a statement trumpeting: “Steve Bannon calls Rob DeSantis a ‘weasel.’ ” And yes, they spelled DeSantis’ first name “Rob” instead of “Ron,” adding insult to injury.

Maybe Ron 'Rob' DeSantis could engage in some light sedition?

Clearly, DeSantis can’t fight 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.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, seen probably thinking, "What's a guy gotta do to get arrested in this town?"
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, seen probably thinking, "What's a guy gotta do to get arrested in this town?"

Trying to replicate Trump’s situation by paying hush money to an adult-film star would be lame, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery 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 vs. DeSantis 2024, who wins?: Ron DeSantis stands no chance against a political barbarian like Donald Trump

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.”

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Remember, Trump is facing a slew of other criminal investigations, from the Mar-a-Lago classified 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 DeSantis’ chances in the primary.

If I’m being honest, the Florida governor 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.

Follow USA TODAY columnist Rex Huppke on Twitter @RexHuppke and Facebook

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump awaits grand jury indictment, but doesn't mean DeSantis is ahead