Will Ron DeSantis exorcise Donald Trump?
A few weeks ago I just wrapped up a trip to the United States where I was staying with my conservative Republican family. That it was during the midterm elections meant politics was a frequent topic, and right-wing stations like Fox News were on the television around the clock.
One common theme emerged from the mix of discussion and television programming: Republicans are turning away from former President Donald Trump. That’s not only because of the poor performance of his hand-picked candidates and the GOP in general in the latest elections but, as my Dad put it to me, “We want Trump again, but we don’t want the drama.”
And one likely 2024 presidential candidate seems to ameliorate this situation for Republicans: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. He put on a strong performance in his state, winning his own election by nearly 20 points against his Democratic Party challenger and helping Florida have its own miniature red wave in the absence of same at the national level.
As it stands, Donald Trump is the only confirmed Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential election. Shortly after the midterm elections that saw Republicans win back the House of Representatives but generally underperform relative to what polls had indicated and even lose a Senate seat, Trump announced his re-election bid in a fiery speech that seemed to pander to his right-wing base.
You would expect that this rousing early announcement in the wake of a major political event this year would have boosted Trump’s favorability to voters. But, not only was that apparently not the case but, for the first time ever, Governor DeSantis, who is not even an official candidate at this point, came out ahead of Trump in the Wall Street Journal’s latest poll.
Among likely Republican primary voters, the WSJ revealed that voters prefer the Florida governor to the former president by 52% to 38% in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup. And while the Republican primary will more than likely be a crowded field, just as it was in 2016 and as many potential suitors are being discussed in conservative media and running ads in key early states, this is a handy early advantage for a possible candidate that hasn’t even announced he will run yet.
The poll also found that DeSantis enjoys a lot of support from the GOP base. He is both well-known and well-liked by Republicans, with a favorability rating of 86% (compared to 74% for Trump) and only 10% of respondents saying they didn’t know enough about him to hold an opinion. That is quite significant for a man whose political career only spans a decade, whereas Donald Trump has been a high-profile public figure for nearly half a century. But it appears that a relatively shorter time in the public eye actually serves as an advantage because it makes him a less-polarizing figure.
As stated before, DeSantis has numerous advantages over Trump. Not only is he every bit as populist and attractive to the Republican base as the former president but he is not fraught with controversy and generally stays out of the petty, in-the-ditch politics that Trump frequently engages in.
That is, he is a strong MAGA candidate without the baggage – and conservatives know it. And he also has a strong track record among Republicans to back that up, as Florida under his administration has frequently been at odds with President Joe Biden’s federal government on a range of issues, including education, immigration and Covid-19.
As DeSantis himself put it, he made Florida a bastion of freedom against the “woke agenda” espoused by Democrats and Biden. That has spawned a wave of internal migration within the United States, with many people relocating to Florida because of its warm climate, perennially low taxes and, of course, the policies of the DeSantis administration. It’s actually DeSantis’ leadership that is dramatically changing the political demographics of what used to be a toss-up purple state into a reliable stronghold of the GOP.
That is extremely significant because of the state’s high population, which translates to more congressional seats and higher representation from the Electoral College for presidential elections.
With two years to go until the all-important 2024 presidential election, there’s certainly still a lot of game left to play for GOP hopefuls. If the WSJ poll is anything to weigh heavily on, DeSantis is the clear Republican frontrunner and he has a clear window to win the party’s nomination.
His strategy moving forward will be simple and straightforward: Being the bigger person against Trump’s potshots and showing himself to be a strong conservative that is less loud and dramatic than the former president. If he manages this, it could mean the end of the Trump era – and a key opportunity for the Republican Party to exorcise its most gaping liability.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.