Former President Donald Trump dominates GOP primary polls against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by over 20 points. The former president has maintained a lock on his supporters who dominate the Republican Party.
Donald Trump Rules
The latest Fox News poll finds that Trump leads DeSantis by a 30-point margin: 54% to 24%. The Real Clear Politics average of polls has Trump leading DeSantis 45.7% to 28.9%
Talk about prosecuting Donald Trump has inflamed sympathy for the former president among Republican voters, which accounts for voters rallying around him.
Trump’s effort to paint DeSantis as a puppet of the Bush wing of the GOP has proven effective. DeSantis was considered the one candidate who could peal off Trump MAGA voters due to his strong stances against Wokeness. The Florida governor enacted legislative proposals to drive critical-race theory and sexualization from the state’s schools. He also turned the Walt Disney Corporation into an example after it funded propaganda that painted DeSantis’ initiative as a “Don’t Say Gay” bill, revoking its special-tax district.
The former president’s surrogates have painted DeSantis as a Soros puppet, yet he removed Soros-backed Tampa prosecutor Andrew Warren last August. DeSantis’ strategy brought significant numbers of Independents and Democrats out to support him during last November’s election. The governor beat his predecessor, former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist in every county in the state save for three. He flipped once-reliably Democratic Miami-Dade County to the Republican column.
Although DeSantis trails Trump by a large margin among Republican voters, polling shows that DeSantis has a commanding lead over Trump with Independent voters. A Quinnipiac University Poll found that DeSantis has a 43% favorable rating among Independents compared with 32% for Trump.
The poll also found DeSantis beating Joe Biden in the General Election 48% to 46%. Conversely, Biden beats Trump 48% to 46%.
Trump has also exploited DeSantis’ confused messaging on Ukraine to capitalize on it with the GOP’s increasingly Ukraine-skeptic. DeSantis angered Hawks in the Republican Party by telling Tucker Carlson that the Ukraine was not a “vital national interest” and that the war between Ukraine and Russia was a “territorial dispute.” Then he angered anti-Ukraine partisans by calling Putin a “war criminal,” which he is according to international law due to his army’s assault on Ukrainian civilians under the 1949 Geneva Convention. The Russian Federation is a party to the treaty.
“I think the larger point is, OK, Russia is not showing the ability to take over Ukraine, to topple the government or certainly to threaten NATO,” DeSantis said. “That’s a good thing. I just don’t think that’s a sufficient interest for us to escalate more involvement. I would not want to see American troops involved there. But the idea that I think somehow Russia was justified — that’s nonsense.”
Even though it’s possible to both think the war in Ukraine is not a vital national interest and to think that Putin is a war criminal, that’s not how things work in the age of social media and out-of-context soundbites. Most Americans only read headlines and lack patience to understand nuances.
Both sides of the issue are using it as a wedge issue to undermine DeSantis before he formally launches his campaign.
Trump’s strong brand loyalty among his supporters will be a tough nut for DeSantis to crack. A lot can happen in the next year.
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John Rossomando is a senior analyst for Defense Policy and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award in 2008 for his reporting.