Discover more from Hopium Chronicles By Simon Rosenberg
The Republicans Have A DeSantis Problem
Been A Very Rough Couple of Weeks for the GOP's Bumbling Golden Boy
Perhaps the central insight of my 2022 election analysis was that I believed the Republicans had made a huge strategic blunder by running towards a politics - MAGA - which had just been overwhelmingly rejected by the American people in two consecutive high-turnout elections. As far back as late October 2021 I warned that if this “anti-MAGA majority” came to understand that the GOP was once again all MAGA it would make 2022 far more likely to be a close, competitive election than a red wave. And that’s basically what happened.
In the battlegrounds, where our campaigns had the resources to control the information environment and push turnout, we outperformed expectations, and MAGA once again disappointed. Incredibly we gained ground in AZ, CO, GA, MI, MN, NH and PA in 2022. In the battlegrounds MAGA has now failed the GOP in three consecutive elections, not just two. There is deep muscle memory and understanding of the dangers of MAGA in the battleground today. Running and winning as MAGA there will be very hard in 2024.
Ron DeSantis looked at all this and decided to become even more MAGA, super MAGA. He’s moved from a 15 week abortion ban to 6 weeks. He’s sold his Presidential campaign as a war against woke. He’s banning books, removing elected officials from office, mounting unprecedented assaults against undocumented immigrants and punishing businesses which don’t agree with his agenda. His response to the Silicon Valley Bank implosion was buffoonish and embarrassing. He choose Putin over America and the West. Republican Senators have been dumping on him all week. What in the world he is doing? As someone who has been in this business a long time it’s not easy to understand.
Last week we started to get polling showing how unpopular DeSantis’s agenda is even in Florida. I wrote a series of threads on Twitter going through the polling, and raising questions about whether DeSantis was blowing it. These threads got millions of views and kicked up an important conversation about DeSantis’s wild rightward lurch.
Let’s look at this polling we saw last week. This first one is from USAToday/IPSOS, and asked about the meaning of woke. Not so good for Ronny D:
Next was a Navigator poll which showed voters far more concerned about protecting their kids from gun violence than from woke.
Then came a University of North Florida poll which showed how unpopular this new super-MAGA DeSantis agenda is in FLORIDA:
This idea that DeSantis may have blown it by lurching too far right has begun to take hold in the national media. David Frum has a terrific new piece in the Atlantic, Is Ron DeSantis Flaming Out Already? Greg Sargent has a brutal new piece in the Washington Post about DeSantis’s book banning. Politico has a very rough piece this morning, “Ron DeSantis Has A Florida Problem.”
But as DeSantis edges closer to announcing, he is testing the limits of how hard right he can go without undermining his rationale for running in the first place. It’s a significant risk in a primary in which Republican voters — sore from losing the White House in 2020 and a less-than-red-wave midterm two years later — are desperate to nominate a candidate who can win.
“In a way, the Republican dominance of the Florida Legislature may end up hurting DeSantis because his proposals can become reality,” said Barrett Marson, a Republican strategist in Arizona. “That may help him in a primary in Iowa or Texas or South Dakota, but in a general election in Arizona, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin, it could be ruinous for him.”
For all those Rs hoping DeSantis would be a reasonable and capable alternative to Trump this has been a very bad week. It appears the Rs might be on the verge of another cycle of “candidate quality” problems. It is another reason why as we head into 2024 I would much rather be us than them.