In 2016, Donald Trump cut through a huge field of Republican primary opponents with the help of rude yet undeniably catchy nicknames. Classics like “Low-Energy Jeb,” “Lyin’ Ted,” and “Liddle Marco” seemed to tumble out of the mogul effortlessly; a lifetime of bullying had prepared him to instantly identify his rivals’ deepest vulnerabilities and transform them into schoolyard taunts. But Trump’s nickname game isn’t what it used to be. Many of his recent jabs have been confusing (Letitia “Peekaboo” James), forced (Mitch “Broken Old Crow” McConnell), or just lazy (“Sleepy Joe”).
Now, with the 2024 GOP presidential primary increasingly looking like a two-man competition, Trump needs a silver-bullet moniker to take down Florida’s governor. “Ron DeSantis” offers plenty to work with, but for whatever reason, Trump is flailing. While he’s insisted on Truth Social that he’s barely giving his DeSantis nickname any thought, it’s obvious he’s still workshopping it. So I’d like to offer some constructive feedback: Here’s a running list of all the nicknames Trump has come up with so far, ranked from best to worst.
1. Meatball Ron
Usage: Trump has never publicly called DeSantis “Meatball Ron,” and, tragically, it’s possible he never will. The New York Times reported in February that Trump “has insulted Mr. DeSantis in casual conversations, describing him as ‘Meatball Ron,’ an apparent dig at his appearance.” Days later Trump repudiated the nickname in a Truth Social post, saying it’s “inappropriate.”
Trump dismissed “Meatball Ron” again while heading to Iowa on March 13, telling reporters it’s “too crude.”
Feedback: It’s unclear if “Meatball Ron” is a naughty dig at DeSantis’s appearance, intelligence, character, or ethnicity — and that’s what makes it great. Could it be offensive to Italian Americans? Possibly, but there was a time when Trump would have relished starting that debate. And “totally inappropriate” is still a core part of the former president’s brand (see “China Virus”). This nickname quest could be over today if Trump would just accept that.
2. Tiny D
Usage: Bloomberg reported in March that while Trump is currently stuck on “Ron DeSanctimonious” he has also “entertained” the name “Tiny D.” He’s yet to test it out in public.
Feedback: “Tiny D” represents DeSantisis’s “pro–toxic masculinity culture wars” coming back to bite him, as Jezebel put it. At around five-eight to five-ten, the governor is kind of short for a presidential candidate, and he’s been wearing high heels to cover this up. So “Tiny D” could be read as an attack on DeSantis’s height, his insecurities, and his effeminate footwear choices.
Also, it sounds like Trump is saying his dick is small.
“Tiny D” isn’t a slam dunk, but it’s workable. And it’s a nice callback to Trump’s roots (i.e., assuring 2016 GOP primary voters that “there’s no problem” with his penis size).
3. Ron DeEstablishment
Usage: This is another new possibility mentioned by Bloomberg. Trump hasn’t rolled it out publicly yet.
Feedback: “DeEstablishment” clearly conveys Trump’s 2024 message that despite all his recent anti-woke posturing, DeSantis is just a “lackey of former House Speaker Paul Ryan.” But it feels like it was made up by political strategists, not by a man with Trump’s raw belittling talents.
4. Shutdown Ron
Usage: The Times reported in February that Trump has used “Shutdown Ron,” which is “a reference to restrictions the governor put in place at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic,” in private conversations.
Feedback: “Shutdown Ron” sounds a bit punchier than “Ron DeEstablishment,” but as an insult it’s much narrower. A nickname highlighting DeSantis’s alleged hypocrisy on COVID-19 restrictions doesn’t make sense when Trump goes after him on other issues, like Social Security. This one only works as a supplementary jab if Trump goes the multiple nickname route (which is possible; he had ten names for Joe Biden).
5. Ron DisHonest
Usage: This is another “new idea” Trump is considering, according to Bloomberg. He has yet to use it.
Feedback: This has the opposite problem from “Shutdown Ron”: It’s too broad. “Lyin’ Ted” felt fresh in 2016, but after “Lyin’ Hillary,” “Lyin’ James Comey,” and “Dishonest Press,” Trump labeling his opponent a fibber feels uninspired. He can do better.
Usage: In February, Trump World ran with a story about liberal philanthropist George Soros endorsing DeSantis (he didn’t; he called him “shrewd, ruthless, and ambitious,” and predicted he will be the GOP nominee, but in context it clearly wasn’t meant as a compliment). Now the Daily Beast and the New York Times Maggie Haberman report that Trump is toying with the nickname “DeSoros.”
Feedback: Sorry to yuck MAGA World’s yum, but “DeSoros” is based on an easily disproven lie and it isn’t funny.
7. Ron DeSanctimonious
Usage: Trump debuted “Ron DeSanctimonious” at a rally in Pennslyvania days before the 2022 midterm elections. The Times reported at the time that it was one of several options Trump had been workshopping with friends and advisers; Roger Stone tested it out in a Truth Social post days before the rally.
The nickname was poorly received among Republicans because (a) they were annoyed that Trump was attacking a GOP governor up for reelection and (b) it sucks. Nevertheless, Trump persisted. He’s been using it frequently on Truth Social ever since.
DeSantis laughed off the nickname in a March 21 interview with Piers Morgan. “I don’t know how to spell ‘DeSanctimonious.’ I don’t really know what it means, but I kind of like it,” said the Harvard and Yale graduate. “It’s long, it’s got a lot of vowels. I mean, we’ll go with that, that’s fine.”
Feedback: There isn’t much to like about “Ron DeSanctimonious”: It’s long, it’s clunky, and it feels inauthentic. When Trump tweeted an attack on “Sanctimonious James Comey,” in 2018 it sparked an online debate over whether he really came up with the five-syllable insult himself.
Its message is also out of date. Trump launched the nickname shortly after DeSantis’s wife tweeted a laughably over-the-top video suggesting her husband was literally sent by God to bully woke Floridians. “Sanctimonious” certainly fit back then. But now Trump has taken to floating the allegation that DeSantis had an inappropriate relationship with high-school girls when he was a teacher. And he reportedly plans to accuse his rival of being lenient on child pornography cases while serving as an assistant U.S. Attorney. So is Trump saying DeSantis is a sleaze or that he’s self-righteous?
8. Ron DeSanctus
Usage: In February, Trump started using “Ron DeSanctus” in some Truth Social posts, probably because “Ron DeSanctimonious” is too long to type. For example:
Feedback: “DeSantis” is derived from “sanctus,” the Latin word for “holy.” Merriam-Webster defines the English word “sanctus” as “an ancient Christian hymn of adoration sung or said immediately before the prayer of consecration in traditional liturgies.” So at best Trump is misspelling DeSantis’s actual name and at worst he’s trying to use the term for a Christian hymn as an insult.
This is a sign that deep down Trump knows “Ron DeSanctimonious” isn’t working. But he can’t solve the problem by giving his low-energy DeSantis nickname a nickname.
This piece has been updated throughout.
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