How Steve Cortes Ended DeSantis’ Campaign…Twice

The right has bitten off more than it can chew when it takes on Steve Cortes, the 2016 Trump volunteer who was elevated to Senior Campaign Strategist in 2020. DeSantis fans blame him for being a Trump plant, and Trump cultists accuse him of being a grifter.

His history in politics shows he is neither. Instead, he has advocated for the principles in which he believes for the right reasons. Although I disagree with Mr. Cortes on many issues, I, like anyone with a web browser, can ascertain he acted with integrity when he ended Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign. Twice.

Unlike talentless hacks who temporarily fill the diminishing airwaves, Cortes has been the most consistent promoter of the “MAGA Right” since 2016.

In 2016, he battled on air against Hillary’s best, with no official campaign role based on his prior experience as a financial CNBC commentator. Rather than being a grifter, he advocated for his own beliefs and principles. Only later did the campaign even communicate with him.

Lucky for them, they did. When the Billy Bush tapes dropped, the world didn’t know (then) about the much-publicized (now) Bannon closed-doors position inside the campaign. Republican support had gone silent. It only learned Trump might survive when Cortes and almost nobody else (the two others who did were Rudy and Scott Baio) came to Trump’s defense. Only then did Trump emerge with the Clinton women by his side.

The volunteer.

In 2017, he was passed over for Scaramucci for the top press role, thanks to Jared. Rather than lament and trade his access to the K street mafia, he spent the next three years battling it out on Fox and then CNN, night after night. As I called him at the time, he is still “Trump’s best political analyst… forcing Honest Conversations.”

(I have a better X account now.)

That is, even after he was turned away by Trump’s people, he didn’t abandon the MAGA Right. Cortes is a recognizable figure. This is a bug, not a feature. In Trump-world, that means being verbally attacked in public, kids being harassed at school, and family being kept out of fancy country clubs or other polite society locales.

All for his principles.

Those same principles got him tossed from CNN when he shot a video for PragerU related to Charlottesville.

To be fair, I had already battled with the vaunted editor of the St. Louis Jewish Light to make the same case earlier. Apparently, CNN cared about their on-air talent’s position more than mine.

But Trump always knew he could call on Cortes. And so he did. In early 2020, the White House asked him if he wanted the Comms job the Mooch had left 3.5 years earlier. He turned it down. Not because of the low pay, but because Trump 2020 needed him more.

America needed him, in his view, to keep the White House more.

After the Biden inauguration, Cortes went back on air for his own show at Newsmax. The reporting on the issue is a little light, but let’s just say Newsmax’s position and Cortes’ position on vaccinations weren’t—and aren’t—congruent.

Again, Cortes followed his principles.

Which brings us to the fall of 2022. Trump had not yet been indicted and was “all-in” on vaccines. At that time, to be MAGA Right meant to be at least “Vax-skeptical.” Cortes opted not to support Trump, who asked him to join at the time.

Cortes rejected Trump’s then view of MAGA Right principles. No amount of money would have paid him off of that position. He didn’t say no to Trump for money. He said no to Trump’s money.

Because Cortes isn’t a grifter.

Only later was Cortes asked to join the DeSantis campaign, which he did.

But almost as soon as he started it, he gave notice of its death.

Not intentionally mind you. But to understand how, we have to first understand some game theory.

The DeSantis campaign relied on the “not-Trump” vote to coalesce around a “Trump-ish” person that Trump people would support later. DeSantis sought to thread a needle in time. Betting on the timing of these two audiences converging required first winning the “not-Trump” contingent’s support to overcome Trump, then winning back the disgruntled Trump rump.

The required “coalescing” invokes the concept of a Schelling Point. “We Trump-haters can’t agree on a candidate on our own, so we should all pick the one Not Trump who the rest of us pick.”

Early last summer, Cortes exposed that the Schelling Point strategy wasn’t working on an X Spaces broadcast. An “Alarm Bell.” Cortes’ comments were a clarion call to all Republicans, including his own campaign, that to win, DeSantis needed to do more to first be seen as the only Trump alternative.

But, when he spoke the truth last summer, he did not in any way advocate for a Trump alternative to be anyone other than a MAGA Right candidate, like DeSantis. If DeSantis didn’t step up, that’s exactly what would happen, he warned.

And that’s exactly what happened, as we see now.

The day after Iowa, it became clear that DeSantis had acted too late. And he called on the Republican Party to move on and recognize that the only MAGA Right candidate that the party could back was President Trump.

DeSantis has since admitted the mistakes he made earlier in the campaign, vindicating Cortes’ insight. Failing to ‘do media’ and take on Trump killed DeSantis’ chances. Cortes had let him and the world know it wasn’t working. Notice that Cortes’ very public alert and warning system avoided all of the petty infighting in the campaign typical of political grifters. The DeSantis people may be upset that they didn’t listen. He first killed the campaign, it seems, by not taking charge.

But Cortes did what he seems to always do when he battles on TV. Cortes spoke the truth—a far better basis for a campaign to help lead America than PAC-funded power politics.

And for those who decry Steve Cortes’ commitment to his (not mine) MAGA Right principles, calling him a ‘grifter,’ they had better look carefully in the mirror.

Cortes’ future in MAGA Right advocacy will outlive their grifts because he has shown, through his own sacrifice, a commitment to principles. And principles outlive people, even President Trump.

Edward “Coach” Weinhaus, Esq. is the Creator of It’s Just Words – a pre-release documentary about the time period known as “Billy Bush Weekend” which culminated in the Second Presidential Debate at Washington University in St. Louis, his alma mater. Coach heads the Hollywood entertainment law firm Provocagent and is the CEO of legal news publisher Judiciocracy LLC.

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Photo: EFFINGHAM, IL - JUNE 28: Former Donald Trump advisor Steve Cortes speaks at at an election-night party for Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey on June 28, 2022 in Effingham, Illinois. Trump-endorsed Bailey beat out a field of six candidates for the nomination. (Photo by Jim Vondruska/Getty Images)