Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Ron DeSantis... a Lost Cause?

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) was in a car wreck yesterday, but it was minor, and he's already fully recovered. His campaign, by contrast, is rapidly turning into a train wreck. And it is far less likely to recover.

One very bad sign for the Governor is the big DeSantis-campaign-related news of the day from yesterday, that DeSantis 2024 just fired one-third of its staffers (38 people got pink slips, in total). This is because the campaign is running short on money. And the campaign is running short on money because it's not doing well in terms of donations. And it's not doing well in terms of donations because DeSantis has always practiced a fundraising approach based on getting the support of a small cadre of well-heeled donors. That's fine for Florida, where his 42 billionaire donors can write checks of any size they wish for his campaign war chest. But for federal campaigns, they can give $3,300 for the primary, another $3,300 in hopes he makes it to the general, and then... they can give money to his super PAC. This is why his super PAC is doing fine, and is essentially starting to take over certain key campaign functions (like the bus tour through Iowa).

Kicking a bunch of staff to the curb, and letting the super PAC step forward, may be a short-term solution but it raises potential problems, long-term. To start, quality staffers are now going to be leery of working for the campaign or the PAC, since they now know there can be mass layoffs at any time. At the very least, they'd like to know they'll be employed through April or May of next year, but that's no longer a sure thing. A second problem is that DeSantis is going to push to the very limit the rule that says campaigns can't coordinate with PACs. And there's a good chance he's going to push it too far, and commit a crime. A third problem is that the billionaire (and multimillionaire) class expects to get something for its money. If they decide that the S.S. DeSantis is a sinking ship (to use another transportation disaster metaphor), then they will take their cash elsewhere (or just stop investing in this presidential cycle entirely).

A second sign that DeSantis 2024 is in trouble is his polling vis-à-vis Donald Trump. We've done this before, but here's an update on the average gap between Trump and the Governor in polls of the Republican primaries. Note that we only used national preference polls, and that when there was a choice, we chose the poll condition where the entire Republican field was included, as opposed to just Trump vs. DeSantis. Here are the numbers:

Month No. of Polls Average
January 29 Trump +14
February 36 Trump +15
March 36 Trump +20
April 34 Trump +30
May 38 Trump +33
June 33 Trump +33
July 17 Trump +36

As a reminder, the first Trump indictment (Alvin Bragg) came down on April 24, the second (Jack Smith) on June 9. Meanwhile, DeSantis spent much of the month of May teasing a run that everyone knew was coming, and then he made it official on May 25 with that disastrous launch on The Platform Formerly Known as Twitter. As you can plainly see, the more trouble Trump gets in, and the more DeSantis campaigns, the worse the gap gets. If we were running DeSantis' campaign, and were asked for ideas on how to fight back against this, we have no idea what we'd suggest. Maybe have DeSantis stay at home all the time, while trying to arrange a sainthood for Trump? Or more practically, drop out of the race and have Casey DeSantis enter it. She is a far better campaigner than he is and can easily distance herself from some of hubby's less popular decisions by saying: "That was his view, mine is ..."

And finally, a third sign that DeSantis is in trouble is that Fox has very clearly turned against him. There was a time when Rupert Murdoch & Co. hoped he would be the white knight (and we do mean white; more below) who would vanquish Trump. That's not looking likely, and the sorry state of DeSantis' campaign is now a frequent topic of conversation on Fox programs.

It is not very easy to create a narrative that one is a viable presidential candidate who should be taken seriously. However, it may be even harder than that to reverse a narrative that one reached for the stars, flew too close to the sun, and is now plummeting to Earth. There are certainly presidential contenders in the past who have been left for dead (or, at least, mostly dead), only to come roaring back to life. The guy in the White House right now is one example of that, in fact. Bill Clinton pulled that off as well. But campaign resurrections, when they happen, take place when the field is big and unwieldy and the identity of the frontrunner is murky. That's simply not the case with the 2024 Republican field, which means that if David is going to slay Goliath here, he's going to have to engineer a turnaround of the sort that has no real precedent in U.S. political history. (Z)

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