Last fall, Donald Trump began calling Ron DeSantis “Ron DeSanctimonious” because he was upset at the Florida governor for getting good press and, apparently, for carrying himself in a condescending way.
It was not widely regarded as one of Trump’s best nicknames. (His best nickname is “Sloppy Steve” for Steve Bannon. “Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone,” Trump wrote in a 2018 tweet. “Too bad!”) On Sunday, though, the New York Times reported that Trump is developing new material about his nemesis, Ronald D.:
Mr. Trump has periodically hit out at his potential rival, albeit to a relatively small audience. He posted his most recent innuendo about the governor on Truth Social, where he has just under five million followers. And he has insulted Mr. DeSantis in casual conversations, describing him as “Meatball Ron,” an apparent dig at his appearance, or “Shutdown Ron,” a reference to restrictions the governor put in place at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the days that have followed, “Meatball Ron” has been getting good reviews. It does have a nice ring to it, and it’s certainly an achievement insofar as it required the paper of record to imply that its reporters believe the governor of Florida looks at least a little like a greasy Italian meatball. Is it bad for Ron DeSantis, though? Consider:
• It emphasizes DeSantis’ Italian American identity, which, in a Republican primary, is the good kind of identity to emphasize. The party’s core voters are white retirees who don’t mind hearing the same five or six Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin songs for 16 straight hours every day.
• Meatballs are a sturdy, comforting, salt-of-the-earth food. They are literally made of red meat rammed together with your hands. Name a more alpha way to make something to put in your mouth—I’ll wait!
• “Meatball Ron” sounds like a fun guy you see at the frat house or a bar down by the docks. Hey, friggin’ Meatball’s here and he’s already got a beer in each hand!
• Remember when mom used to make spaghetti and meatballs? Then the feminists said she had to get a job. Now she writes pronouns on our oat milk glasses and only serves gender-neutral M&M’s. :(
Slate’s position remains that the best, rudest nickname for DeSantis would probably be “Stupid Ron,” although in light of Trump’s evident interest in highlighting the Italian aspect, we will also consider allowing “Governor Buca di Beppo.”
But seriously, Ron DeSantis’ most widely discussed weakness as a potential candidate is that he is personally a bit awkward, and he has degrees from Harvard and Yale that might look suspicious to “noncollege” voters. Then here comes Trump, trying to pin him with a blue-collar diner nickname in a primary that is essentially conducted in a blue-collar diner of the mind. It’s practically a gift. Meatball, fly me to the moon!