Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is shifting his campaign message and organizations after falling behind in the primaries.
- FiveThirtyEight shows former President Donald Trump with a 52.3% lead in the primaries, followed distantly in second by DeSantis at 18.8%.
- On Tuesday, DeSantis’s campaign team laid off 40 staff members and noted plans to reduce travel event expenses.
- Also Tuesday, new Federal Election Commission data shows DeSantis as only the eighth highest-grossing candidate among small-dollar donors—meaning donations below $200.
- On Monday, one of DeSantis’s SuperPAC began to release new advertisements focusing on his biography and economic accomplishments, signaling a shift toward a more positive message.
- On Sunday, a Fox Business poll shows Trump beating DeSantis in the Iowa caucuses 46% to 16%.
- On July 18, DeSantis’s interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper focused on speaking to voters outside the conservative base and reassuring moderates that he is not pushing far-right policies in national politics.
- Earlier this month, big-money donors began to search for other viable candidates in the GOP race other than Trump, with megadonor Ken Griffin saying he “continues to assess the field.” Rupert Murdock has also noted skepticism about DeSantis’s chances.
Why It’s Important
The challenge of competing in the 2024 presidential primaries is dealing with the massive following surrounding former President Trump, who maintains a strong hold over the Republican Party despite his ongoing indictments and poor polling against President Joe Biden.
DeSantis has thus far attempted to out-flank Trump by running as an even more conservative figure with strong records attacking “woke” institutions and leading the state of Florida. But this has meant that moderates are somewhat uneasy with his ideas and that Trump voters are unenthused with a copycat. It is not great for DeSantis’s image that he is already having to reboot his campaign after just eight weeks of campaigning.
Rival candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has attempted to thread the needle by praising Trump’s personality and intentions while arguing that he is a victim of circumstance, saying that he has the ability to pick up where Trump left off and carry the party forward—but he only remains the third most popular candidate with 6.7% of survey respondents, recently surpassing Mike Pence on July 21.
There is still plenty of time for DeSantis to successfully reboot his campaign and turn his numbers around. The first GOP debate is on August 23, and the Iowa caucuses do not begin for another six months on January 15. DeSantis’s momentary campaign focus is almost entirely on early states like Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire, which could give him a sizable momentum prior to Super Tuesday.
DeSantis’s electability against Biden remains another question. While the majority of Republicans surveyed believe Trump is a stronger candidate than DeSantis, most polls show Trump losing to Biden in potential mashups—although a recent Harvard-Harris poll bucked this trend with a 45% to 40% victory in Trump’s favor.
A June NBC poll found that a match between DeSantis and Biden would go in the former’s favor, with the governor capturing six key swing states. RealClearPolitics also showed a 1.3% advantage against Biden last month, with DeSantis holding a five-point advantage among moderates.
“To summarize the NBC Poll: A majority of Americans have deep, deep concerns about Biden’s physical and mental state; Kamala Harris is the least liked Vice President in the poll’s history; and notwithstanding both, Biden/Harris would still beat Trump. All the GOP has to do is avoid Trump, and many of them won’t let him go,” argues radio host Erick Erickson.