Like many journalists, I have a bad habit of underestimating Donald Trump. I didn’t think he had a chance of winning in 2016. Even after he was in the White House, I didn’t expect him to nearly start a nuclear war on Twitter, stare directly into the sun during an eclipse, or start a feud with windmills.
And although I predicted that Ron DeSantis eating pudding with his fingers would end his 2024 presidential bid, I never imagined that Trump would highlight this idiotic allegation in a campaign ad.
Well, it’s real … and it’s spectacular.
Last month, the Daily Beast reported that during a private plane trip in 2019, “DeSantis enjoyed a chocolate pudding dessert — by eating it with three of his fingers, according to two sources familiar with the incident.”
It seemed obvious that the Trump campaign would try to sear this image into Americans’ minds; DeSantis desperately digging into a child’s-size snack cup and slurping chocolate goo off his hand really undercuts his posturing as a manly anti-woke champion. I imagined Trump would accomplish this via Truth Social taunts and a dumb new nickname (Puddin’ Paws has a nice ring). Then he’d reference DeSantis’s literally sticky fingers during a GOP primary debate and the audience would howl as the governor delivered some clunky, pre-written retort.
I underestimated Trump in two ways. First, I assumed there was no way to work “pudding fingers” into a substantive attack ad on DeSantis’s plans for senior entitlements. But his team did it with one elegant phrase: “Ron DeSantis loves sticking his fingers where they don’t belong.”
Second, I didn’t think Trump’s allies would pour significant resources into making “pudding fingers” a central part of his case against DeSantis, as it’s an anonymously sourced story about sloppy eating habits. But the Make America Great Again, Inc. PAC hired people to write a script, had an actor re-create DeSantis’s fateful airplane nosh, then aired this ad Friday morning during Fox & Friends.
Does Team Trump’s turning this idiotic story into an actual campaign ad represent a new low in American politics? Probably. Am I just pointing a pudding-coated finger at myself by admitting that I really liked it? I guess. But if we can’t escape this unhealthy political discourse, at least we’re still getting some enjoyable confections.
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