Dem 51
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GOP 49
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DeSantis Is Failing

Since he's never made it official, we do not know exactly when Ron DeSantis became a presumptive candidate for the White House. Maybe it was a year ago, maybe it was a month ago. What we do know is that he's been under a harsh microscope for a number of months now (albeit one less harsh than those trained on bona fide presidential candidates). And it is not going well for him.

The Governor hasn't exactly kept it a secret that he's focused on the Republican nomination right now, and he'll worry about a potential general election run later. So, he's been using the fact that the Florida legislature is wrapped around his finger to do a lot of pandering to the far-right elements in the Republican Party. Recently, he signed a bill that allows Florida residents to carry concealed weapons without a permit, and another bill that makes it harder to sue insurance companies. He's working on bills that would allow lawsuits against newspapers that use anonymous sources, and also a bill that would make transporting undocumented immigrants, for any reason, a felony. And all of this is just a beginning.

And the result of all this, from a polling perspective, has been... disastrous. The harder right DeSantis veers, the worse he does against Donald Trump in polls. This week has been particularly poor for the Governor; the latest from Morning Consult has Trump up 33 points (56% to 23%), while the latest from Reuters has Trump up an incredible 37 (58% to 21%). Those are just two polls, of course, but consider the trendlines. There have been a little over 150 Trump vs. DeSantis polls so far this year; here are the averages by month:

Month # of Polls Trump Avg. DeSantis Avg. Avg. Margin
April 13 55% 26% Trump +29
March 52 51% 31% Trump +20
February 51 49% 32% Trump +17
January 39 48% 34% Trump +14

There's no other way to spin this: DeSantis is losing ground quickly. It's true that there have been some wonky polls of this race this year, but this isn't one or two or three polls, it's dozens. Earlier this year, the Governor would sometimes come out on top, but he has trailed in 50 straight polls, and has only led three times in the previous 100 (by 8, 2, and 2 points). Trump's numbers are probably being goosed by his arrest and indictment, but DeSantis was falling way behind well before that.

It's true that there's a long way to go until next November, but it's getting harder and harder to see exactly what DeSantis' path is at this point. Sure, Trump could be convicted, and possibly even imprisoned, but will that really cause his support to falter? Seems that the deeper the hole gets, the more the base loves him. Meanwhile, nothing DeSantis does seems to move the needle back in the other direction.

And let's imagine that somehow the Republican decks are cleared of Trump (likely the only way that happens is if Trump dies). Is it really plausible that DeSantis could tack back to the center and persuade moderates that he's not a fascist-in-waiting? He's got a long, long record now, and he's not going to be able to magick it away. Add in the fact that he's roughly as telegenic as a pile of rocks, and that he doesn't whip the base into a frenzy, and we are struggling to see how this can plausibly end with DeSantis taking the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2025.

We aren't the only ones who have noticed that things are not going well in RonWorld. There have been a number of columns this week like this one headlined "Don't count DeSantis out yet; the GOP's 2024 race is far from over." It's by Patrick J. Brown, who is one of CNN's token conservatives, and it advances an... interesting argument. Brown writes that right now, Republican voters want a candidate like Trump. But, if Republican voters decide they would like a candidate like DeSantis, well, the Governor is going to be sitting pretty. Can't argue with that!

Someone else is clearly keeping a close eye on what's going on, and that's Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA), who spends much of his time these days needling his Florida counterpart. Since Newsom isn't running in 2024, there's no particular need for him to take 2024 Republican candidates down a peg. On the other hand, Newsom is almost certainly running in 2028, and it would be very useful for him to start undermining his potential opposition. What it sure looks like to us, in other words, is that Newsom has assessed the situation, and is guessing that DeSantis takes a pass on 2024 and uses his "chance" in 2028. That makes a lot of sense to us, too. The risk of not running now is that DeSantis is yesterday's news by 2028 (see Giuliani, Rudy, circa 2008). But if the Governor is going to get trounced in 2024 anyhow, better to hold off and to hope he can use his office to keep himself in the headlines, as the Republican-nominee-in-waiting. (Z)

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