February 21, 2024

In a campaign full of strained social interactions and clumsy pantomimes of warmth, Ron DeSantis’s encounter with his wife at the presidential primary debate in Des Moines on Wednesday night was one of the more curious.

During the second commercial break, Mr. DeSantis, the governor of Florida, strode to the edge of the stage and reached down to shake hands with Gov. Kim Reynolds, Republican of Iowa, and her husband. Then, with a businesslike rigor, he grasped the outstretched palm of Casey DeSantis, Florida’s first lady.

Did he just shake his wife’s hand? Onlookers in the room were bewildered.

Interactions with spouses on the campaign trail can be fraught, even for the most adept politicians and for the warmest of marriages. To be fair, Mr. DeSantis was standing on an elevated stage, on a tight timetable, making an embrace impractical. Too much affection runs its own political risks.

And who knows? Maybe The Handshake was some sort of inside joke, or an effort to create a signature routine, like Barack and Michelle Obama’s coy fist bump (which were weaponized by Mr. Obama’s political foes as a “terrorist fist jab.”)