It’s that time again. The quadrennial exercise in futility has begun anew. Presidential wannabes are flocking to Connecticut, not to look for votes, but to cajole donors on the Gold Coast into writing fat checks.

It’s a humiliating ritual. We already suffer an inferiority complex, sandwiched as we are between New York and Boston. And now we have high-profile politicians seeking the highest office in the land streaming into our state, not because they’re interested in what we have to say, but because they want us to open our wallets.

Since there is no meaningful competition in the Democratic presidential primary – though I agree there should be – it’s Republicans who are coming here. Headlining the GOP treasure seekers this week is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who, when he announced for president earlier this year, was viewed by GOP kingpins as the Trump slayer.

But DeSantis, who is placing a distant second to former President Donald Trump in virtually every poll I’ve seen, has struggled for a variety of reasons, chief among them his prickly, humorless personality. His highly divisive proclivity for engaging in the culture wars around wokeness and public education has redounded to his benefit in increasingly red Florida, but it hasn’t helped him broaden his appeal on the national stage.

By now it should be obvious: what plays in a large state doesn’t necessarily resonate with the rest of the country. You can ask Presidents Dewey, Connally, Perry, Pataki, and Jeb Bush.

But in his effort to displace Trump, DeSantis is violating one of the truisms of politics. The only way to make up for ground lost to an opponent is to go negative. Beyond telling voters he doesn’t want to dwell on the past, as Trump does to the point of tedium, DeSantis has mostly avoided calling out the ex-president for fear of angering Trump’s fiercely loyal supporters. His campaign slogan, “Never Back Down,” which doubles as the name of his super PAC, has a hollow ring because all he has done so far is back down from Trump.

That’s one of the reasons the second-place DeSantis trails Trump by 46 points in the most recent Wall Street Journal poll. If the governor is the hyper-competent, results-oriented leader his supporters say he is, why have DeSantis and his super PAC burned through $34 million in recent months with almost nothing to show for it?

This leads to the inevitable question of why anyone in wealthy Fairfield County would want to give money to the belly-flopping DeSantis campaign. According to the Hartford Courant, which obtained a copy of the invitation, the fundraiser will be held tonight at a waterfront home in the Riverside section of Greenwich. The Greenwich Time reported in July that town GOPers planned to hold the event at the home of former state Sen. Scott Frantz, who is also president of Haebler Capital, a venture capital firm.

A little more than $23,000 per couple will buy you and your partner a VIP reception and a photo. If you hustle on your own to raise $50,000 from others, you can also attend the reception, apparently minus the photo op.

Greenwich Pride, an organization representing the town’s LGBTQ commmunity, issued a statement in protest against DeSantis’ appearance, declaring that, “Welcoming DeSantis into our town is indicative of the extreme takeover of the Greenwich Republican Town Committee (RTC).” DeSantis’ views on LGBTQ issues aside, I wonder how Mr. Frantz would feel if Gov. Ned Lamont used the power of the state to punish Haebler for its political views, as DeSantis famously did to Disney.

The Arms Race of Shifting Primary Dates

Speaking of the race for the highest office in the land, there is also a movement afoot in the General Assembly to change the date of Connecticut’s presidential primaries. We Nutmeggers have been irrelevant to the presidential nomination process for decades, mostly because our primaries are usually held on the last Tuesday in April when the winners of the nominations are already apparent. The proposed new date would be the first Tuesday in April, which would put us on the same page as New York, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Wisconsin.

The goal seems to be to make Connecticut something of a kingmaker, but our small size and low delegate count will persist and we would have to compete for attention with two larger states, including the aforementioned Gotham. I would implore our elected officials to spend their time on more important causes. Of all the broken things in this state that need fixing, this one should rank dead last. It’s an idea that only the political class cares about.

Poetic Justice For Project Veritas

In other news, state Attorney General William Tong last week released a report clearing an administrator in the Greenwich Public Schools of discriminatory hiring practices. Tong had opened the investigation about a year ago after the right-wing media platform Project Veritas secretly published a heavily edited video of the assistant principal, Jeremy Boland, bragging to a female acquaintance over lunch about avoiding hiring Catholics and older applicants because they tend to be “conservative.” Boland was subsequently suspended and later resigned.

As I wrote at the time, while unlawful discrimination in hiring practices is deplorable, it’s also fair game to question the dishonest tactics used by the nonprofit Project Veritas. I’ve never been comfortable with the deployment of undercover journalism, especially when, as Project Veritas did, editors refuse to disclose the name of the journalist who executed the “sting.” How else, pray tell, can we evaluate their track record?

While denouncing Boland’s comments, Tong found that Boland did not have independent hiring or screening authority and was merely one vote out of many on the search committees that recommended hirings.

Since there was no evidence that Boland had ever practiced the discrimination he crowed about, Tong concluded that Boland was trying “to curry favor with a woman whom he met on a dating app and whom he believed to be a possible romantic connection.” It’s sort of pathetic that Boland would feel the need to boast about discrimination, but men will say dumb things to woo women.

On the poetic justice front, the troubled Project Veritas founder and CEO James O’Keefe has been under investigation by the Westchester County district attorney for actual wrongdoing – using donor funds for excessive personal luxury items – and has lost his job, leaving the organization in shambles. Project Veritas also reportedly laid off 25 employees in August. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch.

Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, is a Substack columnist and is the retired managing editor of The Berkshire Edge in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill or email him here.

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