Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis likely gained an even easier glide path to reelection when Democrats nominated former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, the consummate chameleon who has managed to lose elections in the state as a GOP candidate, as an independent candidate, and as a Democrat candidate, though he does hold a U.S. House seat.
Barring some unforeseeable political earthquake, the question for November is about how much DeSantis will win by and what that means for 2024.
The Florida state elections are of course not the biggest news story happening in the Sunshine State, as it is occurring against the backdrop of the unfolding drama of the FBI raid on the home of former President Donald Trump. Meanwhile, DeSantis is widely considered the only Republican who could viably challenge Trump in a GOP primary.
Though Trump seems very difficult for any Republican to beat, Trump’s constant presence on the national stage could very well give DeSantis room to solidify the conservative base.
The stakes are always high in a governor’s race for a state the size of Florida. But a big win, possibly by a 10-point margin, or even 5-7 points, would solidify him going into 2024.
Yes, Florida hasn’t elected a Democrat to the governor’s mansion since 1994. Republicans even held the governorship in big Democrat wave elections as in 2006 (when Crist won) and 2018 (when DeSantis was elected). But it’s not ancient history when Barack Obama twice carried the state’s electoral votes.
So, Florida remains a battleground and a runaway Ron DeSantis victory over Crist is no guarantee. Thus, if DeSantis can win big, it’s a big deal going into a potential challenge to Trump.
“This negative opinion of the former president was deepened by news that FBI agents had ‘raided’ Trump’s home to retrieve potentially classified documents allegedly removed from the White House by the former president,” Impact Social noted of the survey stretching from July 27 through Aug. 10.
The raid on Mar-a-Lago might have caused the Republican base to rally behind Trump, since somewhere this side of the debunked Russia collusion narrative there has been reason to presume the worst about the FBI—at least when it comes to Trump.
Nevertheless swing voters on social media don’t seem to share that skepticism of the FBI.
“The overall feeling expressed by a majority of swing voters who commented on the raid was one of relief that action was finally being taken by at least one of the authorities investigating Trump’s behavior,” the Impact Social summary says. “The FBI raid shows how quickly swing voters show their belief in Trump’s guilt and their sense that justice should be served.”
Impact Social conducted the survey on behalf of a pro-DeSantis PAC, Ready for Ron, promoting a 2024 campaign but not associated with the DeSantis gubernatorial campaign.
Still, most old-fashioned opinion polls show Trump leading all potential GOP primary opponents. At least in most states, swing voters won’t ultimately decide primaries. However, there is the argument about who best makes the GOP likely to retake the White House.
“DeSantis’ consistent support from swing voters must be a thing of envy when viewed from Mar-a-Lago,” the Impact Social summary says. “Recent polling suggests that GOP voters would like Trump to represent them once again in a run for the White House. Yet should they want the ultimate prize this evidence shows DeSantis remains the more likely of the two to win it for them.”
Far too often, the “electability” trap has been a disaster for Republicans, think Mitt Romney. But DeSantis is far from the wishy-washy Republican, and has fought and won almost every conservative battle imaginable in what used to be the ultimate battleground.
Ron DeSantis is taking the far-left curriculum out of public schools, going toe-to-toe with woke corporations, firing soft-on-crime prosecutors and taking traditional Republican positions on right-to-life, tax cuts and the Second Amendment. Under most circumstances, the mainstream media would be in full-fledged attack mode.
But Trump won’t exit the spotlight, and is still taking the bulk of media arrows. This gives DeSantis room to successfully govern with a conservative agenda, further solidifying the GOP base and building a stronger case to do for the nation what he did for Florida.
Still, Ron DeSantis will have a decisive test in November–a test he’ll, of course, pass—but he needs to at least meet or surpass expectations.