Former President Trump is a twice-impeached sexual abuser, who possesses a unique ability to make people laugh—unfortunately or fortunately, to use his verbiage. He made that clear at a CNN town hall last week, when he had an audience of mostly Republicans laughing hysterically over the charming subject of an alleged rape.
However odious his behavior, Trump’s charisma—or, as the kids call it, “rizz”—is a boon to his presidential prospects. Rizz, like BDE, is not a learnable trait. Either you have it or you don’t. And Trump’s most formidable challenger for the Republican nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, certainly does not.*
A new article in the New York Times analyzed DeSantis’ lackluster start to the presidential race. It said that the Florida governor is choosing to continue using his gubernatorial power to do bad shit rather than ignore his constituents and hit the campaign trail. How noble! But the subtext is that DeSantis is just not an agreeable or pleasant person to be around, and that’s going to hurt him.
The article repeatedly mentions DeSantis’ difficulty making eye contact. We hear from a freshman Republican congressman from Florida who was “a bit insulted” by DeSantis’ failure to return his call. We are told that DeSantis spends donor events fiddling with his phone. He has reportedly responded to criticism and become much more engaged lately—but can it really be that easy to suddenly adopt basic interpersonal communication skills at 44 years of age?
And even if DeSantis can overcome his awkwardness and learn to make small talk, it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to hide his general weirdness once he steps more clearly into the national spotlight. This is a man who reportedly eats pudding with his fingers. He was widely ridiculed for the white rubber boots he wore while surveying damage from Hurricane Ian, and while the pile-on was petty, it pointed to a dunkability and rizzlessness** that don’t lend themselves to a future president. But we’ll just have to wait and see.
*Editor’s note: The etymology for rizz is here. You might as well go ahead and learn it—as it migrates from Twitch to social media writ large to a colleague using it and you going “oh Jesus.” It seems to involve mostly “seduction” but can be used more widely. I thought of the unfortunate slang of my generation: “swag.”
**See above. If you’re old, and think this is a new word. Don’t worry. It’s just rizz again. In a new form.