Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is allegedly a very smart fellow. The jury's still out on that, as far as we are concerned, but the fact is that just about anyone—even Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL)—can read polling numbers. And it's clear that the Governor is in big trouble. In RealClearPolitics' polling average, Donald Trump leads DeSantis 53.7% to 15.7%, that is, by 38 points. In FiveThirtyEight's polling average, the story is very nearly the same, with Trump up 52.4% to 15.6%, or 36.8 points.
This being the case, the DeSantis campaign has just executed its fifth or sixth or seventh reboot (unless you just want to count the last 6 weeks as a single, slowly unfolding reboot). Apparently observing that a fish rots from the head down, DeSantis canned his campaign manager, Generra Peck, and replaced her with his gubernatorial chief-of-staff, James Uthmeier. There, that should fix everything! Done and done!
Or maybe not. Because DeSantis' problem isn't the campaign manager, of course, it's the candidate. Shuffling through campaign managers, as Donald Trump did in 2016, can potentially move the needle a little bit in a very close race (as the 2016 general election was). But otherwise, we're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Indeed, Uthmeier seems a singularly bad choice. If someone is down 30+ points, then what they are doing clearly isn't working, and they could use some fresh ideas. In general, you're not going to get fresh ideas from someone you've worked in close proximity to, day-in and day-out, for the last 5 years.
And note that DeSantis 2024 has other problems, beyond a candidate who cuts a less-than-dashing figure, and who is roughly as good at retail politics as Jeffrey Dahmer. As we have noted, DeSantis' signature issue—fighting "wokeness"—is dumb, because nobody particularly understands it, and not many people care about it. The new New York Times/Siena poll affirms this, yet again. Among Republican voters, a.k.a. DeSantis' ostensible base, just 38% want a candidate who fights woke corporations, whereas 52% want a candidate who leaves corporations alone. Recognizing that his signature issue is a loser, DeSantis has basically dropped that talk from his stump speech and campaign appearances. That's smart, but it also leaves a question: What's his identity, then?
Perhaps his identity could be "He gets things done"? Maybe so; that's always been a part of his pitch, and it theoretically differentiates him from Donald Trump. However, Trump got plenty done in the eyes of his base, so maybe not. Also, the things that DeSantis got "done" are increasingly being overturned in courts, or are proving to have deleterious effects on the state of Florida. Just in the last week, at least a dozen major corporations have pulled their conventions or other events from Florida, because of the hostile cultural and political climate. The estimated loss to the Sunshine State, in dollars? About $20 million. In just one week.
We will point out one other problem. If Donald Trump remains in the race, he's going to be the GOP nominee. Maybe the other candidates will change their approach to Trump, but for now they're just not willing to attack him because it won't do much good, and it will alienate the voters they would need if Trump vanishes (Chris Christie is the exception, obviously). On the other hand, DeSantis is the frontrunner among the non-frontrunners—that is, the guy who needs to be taken down in the event that Trump drops out. And nobody gets upset when the Governor is attacked. So, while the other Republicans handle The Donald with kid gloves, they train the lion's share of their withering fire on DeSantis. It's going to be a very interesting debate dynamic, indeed.
In short, we do not envy the newly appointed Uthmeier. The campaign has numerous problems that are beyond his ability to fix, and the only question is if Uthmeier keeps the job until DeSantis drops out, or if he becomes the next scapegoat when DeSantis 2024 v8.0 is launched. (Z)