Ron DeSantis, a favorite contender early on in the Republican primary, has not garnered the mass support he needs to overcome the right-wing formidable force that is Donald Trump.
Ron DeSantis Did Not Dominate Debate
The Republican primary debate was a stark demonstration of this. Despite DeSantis’ increased activity on social media and in the mainstream press, he did not receive the attention his campaign had likely hoped he would during Thursday night’s showdown.
CNN commented on the lack of attention and speaking time DeSantis received:
“Though his campaign suggested his Republican opponents would have their ‘knives out’ for DeSantis, he wasn’t on the receiving end of many attacks.”
Some speculated that his support has waned so much that his opponents in the GOP primary debate last week didn’t feel the need to go on the attack. Instead, they set their sights on the up-and-coming young millionaire candidate from Ohio, Vivek Ramaswamy.
“It speaks volumes that just months after being the co-front-runner of this race, Ron DeSantis has fallen so far that none of his seven opponents onstage felt the need to attack him but instead went after a first-time upstart,” said GOP strategist Matt Mowers, who attended the debate.
Their instincts were not misguided. Ramaswamy has climbed consistently in the polls, particularly after the debate. But as of today, he is still hovering only around 10 points, and DeSantis at 12.
However, like most things in politics, opinion of DeSantis depends on who you ask.
Differing Opinions of Ron DeSantis
According to a post-GOP debate poll from the Washington Post/FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos, complete with a cute graphic of the candidates strategically positioned around a track, Ron DeSantis took home the prize. Twenty-nine percent of Republican voters who watched the debate said he performed best, with Ramaswamy, who definitely made more of a spectacle, came in with 26 percent of the vote.
Andrew Romeo, communications director for the DeSantis campaign, told Fox News Digital, “Last night, Ron DeSantis was the clear winner and proved that he is ready to beat Joe Biden and serve as America’s 47th president. The debate highlighted that DeSantis is the only candidate with the vision to reverse our nation’s decline and revive the American Dream.”
Granted, it is difficult to ignore the bias of that opinion.
Regardless, both Florida’s favorite governor and the GOP newbie still fall drastically behind the seemingly unstoppable Donald Trump who, according to the latest polls, currently garners 50% of Republican favor.
All this despite DeSantis’ high favorability among his constituents in Florida.
However, state support doesn’t always translate along national lines, particularly in such a highly polarized time with such a highly polarizing candidate such as the former President.
According to a poll by FiveThirtyEight Americans do not have a favorable opinion of DeSantis by +13.6 points.
However, Republicans tend to be in the minority in the country overall.
According to the Washington Post poll, only 33% of all Americans watched the debate.
DeSantis’s Unsure Side
Trump seems to be the thorn in DeSantis’ side that he just won’t be able to get rid of, leading many to conclude DeSantis may be destined to simply be a great governor rather than the leader of the free world — at least for now.
The usually confident governor often turns into a reluctant primary candidate when it comes to issues related to Trump.
He doesn’t seem so surefooted. In one moment he’s highly critical of Trump and his supporters, and in another, he tries to appease them.
Just before the debates, DeSantis had his “Hillary moment,” insinuating Trump supporters are “listless vessels.”
DeSantis said Trump’s base values loyalty to Trump over conservative principles and that “unless you’re kissing his rear end, they will somehow call you a RINO (Republican In Name Only).”
Sensing the blowback from many in the GOP, DeSantis seemed to pull back on his attacks in the primary.
One notable moment caught on tape for all to see was his reluctance to raise his hand when Brett Baier asked all the candidates whether or not they would still support Trump as the party’s choice if Trump were convicted in a court of law.
DeSantis awkwardly looked right and left before finally, halfheartedly raising his hand. Vivek’s hand was the only one to pop up immediately and demonstrably.
It’s challenging for the Republican candidates, particularly DeSantis who Trump claims has been disloyal to him, to know how to respond to Trump given the tight grip he maintains on the current GOP base. They won’t win without them.
One thing is certain: Trump keeps everyone, including those in his own party, on their toes.
Jennifer Galardi is the politics and culture editor for 19FortyFive.com. She has a Master’s in Public Policy from Pepperdine University and produces and hosts the podcast Connection with conversations that address health, culture, politics and policy. In a previous life, she wrote for publications in the health, fitness, and nutrition space. In addition, her pieces have been published in the Epoch Times and Pepperdine Policy Review.