In case you didn’t notice, Ron DeSantis is trailing Donald Trump in Florida by a whopping 20 points. For DeSantis to have won a landslide gubernatorial reelection last November, that spread is stunning DeSantis supporters. His big money backers are grumbling. His cheerleaders in conservative media circles are hedging. Yes, it’s a long way to the Sunshine State’s presidential preference primary in March, but the governor owns a stellar record in Florida. He’s popular, yet per polling, he’s getting the stuffing kicked out of him by Trump in every demographic save those making $200 grand or more. Men, women, Hispanics, working and middle-class folk -- you name it -- are pro Trump. That indicates other problems for DeSantis that we’ll address shortly.
Sure, something could happen to cause Trump to stumble -- if anything, his health -- but Trump appears fit as a bull, so DeSantis better not count on infirmity.
The banana republic indictments of Trump by New York’s Alvin Bragg and the DoJ’s Jack Smith have done nothing -- repeat, nothing -- to slow Trump’s drive to the GOP nomination. In fact, these shabby, politically motivated indictments have only served to put more distance between Trump and DeSantis. The base is rallying to Trump, and for good reason: the GOP grassroots have been morphing since Trump threw his hat in the ring in late 2015. It’s strongly traditionalist, populist, and very anti-establishment. These folk are meat-eaters, not pâté nibblers. Trump and the base are simpatico.
Before you claim that Democrats have used the indictments -- and maybe another coming in Georgia -- to cleverly boost Trump into the nomination, think again. You’re giving too much credit to Democrats. They’re consumed by hate and fear of Trump. They really do mean to waylay him. They don’t want to face him in a General Election. But for 2020 shenanigans in Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, Trump would have been reelected. Democrats know that better than anyone, since they engineered the fixes.
Out of the gate, DeSantis has had two significant problems. One is answering the question of why he’s running. Why DeSantis and not Trump? DeSantis claims his track record as governor makes him presidential timber. But doesn’t Trump’s track record as president prove his bona fides to serve a second term? While DeSantis has excelled as Florida’s chief executive, Trump excelled as president -- considering everything he accomplished despite unrelenting attacks by the establishment.
That leaves DeSantis with little in the way of a contrast. What can he say, “I don’t pick fights like Trump does?” “You hate Trump, but you’ll love me?” Meaningless, given Trump’s post-presidency.
Anyone with eyes can see that Trump has laid off the sideshow battles for the most part. He’s exhibited discipline since leaving office. He’s not being goaded into petty fights with publicity-hungry celebs. He’s even laid off Mitch McConnell, who richly deserves to be pilloried. At Trump rallies, his conversations -- they aren’t really speeches -- remind audiences of past accomplishments but also include points about what he plans to do in a final term as president. Crowds respond enthusiastically not only to his agenda but his determination to send D.C.’s Democrat and Republican denizens packing.
In short, DeSantis simply can’t trump Trump. Despite DeSantis’ accomplishments as governor, his story simply isn’t as compelling as Trump’s -- or, frankly, as remarkable. There’s a herculean quality that Trump possesses -- at least to his legions of supporters. They’re willing to ignore his foibles because he champions their values, their beliefs. He’s willing to go through hell to get them to heaven. He’s got the battle-scars to prove it.
Moreover, fairly or not, America First acolytes see DeSantis as an ingrate. Trump shrewdly fueled that perception. Trump made DeSantis’ 2018 election possible, says Trump, only to have DeSantis bite his hand by announcing his candidacy.
Though polling typically means little this far ahead of actual voting, the Florida numbers should disturb DeSantis’ team. Trump shouldn’t enjoy such a commanding lead over DeSantis. Forget the also-rans, like the stiff Mike Pence, the oily Nikki Haley, and whorish Chris Christie.
As to national polling, it’s useless. Candidates for the presidency aren’t nominated nationally, much less elected nationally -- to the great frustration of scheming Democrats (they who want to abolish the Electoral College). Aspirants are nominated via caucuses and primaries in states, and elected in the states as well. Whereas DeSantis is struggling to get his organization up and running across the map, Trump has nearly an eight-year head start. Trump’s organization coupled with the passion of his voters make him practically an incumbent and tough to knock off.
As to fundraising, while Trump outraised DeSantis in the second quarter of this year, a DeSantis-aligned super PAC hauled in $130 million, a phenomenal sum. But, though money is the mother’s milk of politics, all the money in the world can’t buy genuine, intense voter support. Trump simply doesn’t need to raise the sort of money DeSantis and pro-DeSantis super PACs are raising because his voters are geared up now to turn out for state caucuses and primaries come January. DeSantis risks being 2024’s Jeb!
A critical blunder that DeSantis is making is where his money comes from. His financial muscle is flowing from rich East-coasters.
From Fox News, July 11:
Fox Business senior correspondent Charlie Gasparino was told DeSantis, who has stalled in polls, will face questions from major East Coast donors during the meeting about the viability of his campaign. DeSantis is reportedly planning to tell donors he's playing the "long game" against the current GOP front-runner, former President Donald Trump.
The Murdochs are, heretofore, backing DeSantis because they loathe Trump. Yet, the fickle and cutthroat Rupert Murdoch is said to be displeased with DeSantis’ shaky start.
The Murdochs are, in turn, loathed by the very same voters who are Trump stalwarts, and who have been critical of Fox News’ leftward drift. The popular Tucker Carlson’s ouster only deepened the Murdochs unpopularity with the grassroots.
DeSantis’ financial muscle is coming from the same East Coast establishment that most Republican voters distrust. It’s poor positioning for DeSantis, who is appearing as a candidate whose ambition outstrips his principles. The growing perception of DeSantis as an ambitious pol crawling into bed with East Coast establishment monied interests isn’t without merit. As the old saying goes, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” Just who would President DeSantis be obligated to?
Of course, life is full of strange twists and turns. A stumbling start for DeSantis doesn’t necessarily mean a flat finish. But Trump is indomitable, his organization is battle-tested, and his legion of America Firsters are pure political gold. Trump, not DeSantis, seems like a man of destiny.
@JRobertSmith. He also blogs at Flyover. He’s recently returned to Twitter. His Twitter handle is @JRobertSmith1.
Image: Gage Skidmore