Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is facing challenges including falling poll numbers and opposition to key items in his agenda by a majority of Americans. He is also not taking on Donald Trump directly, allowing the former president’s campaign to define him to primary voters.
F lorida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis seems to be learning what it is to be even an “almost” candidate for President.
His poll numbers are falling; immediately after meeting with GOP congressmen in Washington, another Florida House member endorsed Trump. DeSantis had asked folks to hold off endorsements until he’s in the race. And it’s not a good look when elected Republicans from your own state endorse your opponent.
A few of the other challenges DeSantis has at the moment:
- Donald Trump;
- Key items in the agenda he is passing through his legislature are opposed by a majority of Americans (abortion, gun control, iron hand over teachers, among others).
Anything, of course, can happen before the primary season begins but for the guy who was predicted to knock off Trump for the nomination, DeSantis isn’t looking too good.
And, that’s against a guy who is the first ex-president to be indicted and arrested; this month is facing a civil trial in which he’s accused of rape; and who just saw Fox – which was a key reason his message got out – settled (lost) a defamation suit over its on-air personalities repeating Trump’s lies about a fixed election.
DeSantis, who is trying his hardest to make “woke” a word that will carry him to the White House, in recent weeks widened his war on the First Amendment, spoke of his desire to weaken libel laws and would make it easier to sue media outlets for defamation.
Last year, he pushed through a series of bills that banned teaching critical race theory and blocked discussions of gender preferences in his state (the “Don’t Say Gay” bill). His moves have led schools across the state to pull hundreds of books off library shelves out of fear that teachers and librarians could face prosecution.
Among his other claims to fame, he has shepherded legislation:
- Passing a wide-ranging tort reform bill that makes it harder and more expensive to sue insurance companies and businesses. Even Donald Trump labeled it a “bailout”;
- Allowing permitless carry, meaning you can carry a concealed weapon in the state without a permit or training;
- After signing into law a 12-week ban on abortion, he upped the ante and signed another bill prohibiting abortion after just six weeks of pregnancy, with some exceptions. This is before many women even know they are pregnant. He signed this bill at night and released it had happened after 11 p.m. (Not exactly wanting credit, I guess);
- His Republican-led senate is considering a house bill that would require every K-12 school to have a policy saying it’s “false” to ascribe to anyone a pronoun that does not correspond with their birth sex, even in cases where the parents are fine with it;
- And his weird war with Disney World continues. Other states are saying they’d be happy to host Disney if they want to move the thousands of jobs to their state. This one seems an unforced error that DeSantis keeps making.
DeSantis’ strategy so far has been to not take on Trump directly. Of course, DeSantis isn’t a candidate yet and that may or not be smart. It definitely allows Trump’s campaign to define DeSantis to primary voters that the governor wants to take away from Trump.
What about Chris Christie? | CREDIT: BING
And, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a former close advisor to Trump, is making noises about not only getting into the primary battle but promising he will take on Trump directly, something it seems few Republicans are willing to attempt for fear of the Trump bloc of voters in the GOP.
Of course, it’s too early in the nomination battle to make any fact-based predictions, but it’s generally agreed that DeSantis is demonstrating he is not yet ready for prime time.
Nationally, more than 60% of voters favor abortion rights and a clear majority support gun reform, two issues that DeSantis is way out front on.
Unclear how he walks that back for a general election.
— AUTHOR —
▫ B. Jay Cooper, Former deputy White House press secretary to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Also headed communications offices at the RNC, U.S. Department of Commerce, and Yale University.
▪ Text: This piece was originally published in The Screaming Moderate and re-published in PMP Magazine on 25 April 2023, with the author’s consent. | The author writes in a personal capacity.
▪ Cover: Bing. (Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)