Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) was once seen as a serious challenger to the Trumpanthemum Throne. But now, the main story for him is "a campaign in decline." This week has quite a bit of that, in fact.
We start with the Governor's PAC, which is the backbone (PACbone?) of his campaign, since he's pretty good at attracting fat-cat donors, but not so good at attracting any other kind. With funds running low, Never Back Down made a presentation to the fat cats just hours before the Republican candidates' debate, pleading with them to donate $50 million to keep the PAC operating smoothly this year, plus another $50 million next year, in the lead up to Super Tuesday.
There were roughly 60 donors "present" for the online meeting, which means that they are basically each being asked for $1 million this year and another $1 million next year. In order to persuade the donors this is a wise investment, the PAC's staff talked about the DeSantis Index, an internal metric that "proves" the Governor is way more popular than the polls say he is. That reminds us, we've been meaning to announce our creation of the E-V.com Index, which reveals that our site is more popular with Internet users than any site besides Google. We don't know how the DeSantis Index is calculated, but we'll reveal that the E-V.com Index is based substantially on "Percentage of visitors with the initials M.M."
This obvious desperation move makes DeSantis' middling debate performance considerably more damning. If the point is to convince the donors that this thing is not over yet, then he needed to be swinging for the fences, and he most certainly was not doing so. The kind of folks you can ask for $1 million are certainly willing and able to spend that much, but they're not going to throw it away on a dumb investment. And a guy who's trailing his main rival by 30-40 points, and is trending downward, is not a good investment.
The PAC doesn't have to report its fundraising until the end of Q3 (October 1), so there's no way to know for sure how if the $100-million Zoom presentation did any good, though the early indications are not so good for Team DeSantis. Since the debate, Never Back Down has shut down its ground-game operation in four states: California, Texas, North Carolina and Nevada. Exact delegate totals for those states aren't final yet, but between them they have roughly 432 of the 1,235 needed for the nomination, or about 34%. So, the transition from "Never Back Down" to "Guess We Will Back Down, After All" represents a pretty big setback in terms of the Governor's end goal. And again, he is terrible at small-dollar fundraising, so if the PAC is running out of cash, then the campaign as a whole is running out of cash.
In addition to his PAC troubles, DeSantis himself did not have a great week. There were two crises in Florida that required him to leave the campaign trail, and to actually do his, you know, job. The first of those was the swastika-wielding guy who shot up a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, killing three people. Sometimes, tragedies like these are an opportunity to show leadership. But for DeSantis? He doesn't do empathy at all, and he also doesn't want to anger the racist voters he's not-so-secretly trying to attract. So, despite the swastika and the killing of Black people, DeSantis refused to refer to the shooter as a racist.
Further, not only is DeSantis not well suited to being part of the solution, he's pretty clearly a part of the problem. The Governor has done much to heighten divisions and tensions in his home state, while at the same time downplaying the significance of racism, up to and including scoffing at an NAACP travel warning that Black tourists should be extra mindful when traveling to Florida. "Gov. DeSantis has created and pushed a narrative of division and hate that is anti-Black," said Rev. Jeffrey Rumlin, pastor of a church near where the shootings took place.
(Incidentally, as a sidebar, reader B.C. in Walpole, ME, advises us that Canada has just warned its LGBTQ citizens about the risks of traveling to the U.S.—any part of it. We can't say they're wrong about that.)
The other crisis in Florida, of course, is Hurricane Idalia. Given the state he leads, DeSantis is actually pretty good at responding to hurricanes, as long as he remembers to leave the white boots at home. And he's done pretty well with this one. But the great majority of the coverage of this subject has focused on his hypocrisy, and how he voted against hurricane relief funds for other states when he was in Congress, but now that it's Florida, he's got his hand out.
Is focusing on this angle unfair and/or a sign of media bias? Maybe. But it's also kinda who DeSantis is; this is not the only time when he's put politics above the life-and-death needs of his fellow citizens. Heck, it's not the only time this week; recall his unwillingness to take federal funds for climate change mitigation, which we wrote about yesterday.
In any event, fair or not, the vast majority of DeSantis coverage these days is negative and/or focused on how his campaign is faltering. That could change, we suppose, but it usually doesn't, especially with someone who comes off as so unlikable. The money is running out. He's not a good debater, which takes away one possible avenue for reinvigorating his campaign. He's not a good match for the early caucus/primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, which takes away another such avenue.
Add it up, and the big question is not "Will he be the Republican nominee in 2024?" That's been answered to a 99% certainty. Now, the big question is "Will we say 'Bye, Bye, Love' to DeSantis and his campaign before Super Tuesday rolls around?" (Z)