A few months ago, I spelled out why Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was more likely to lose than win in his 2022 reelection bid for Governor of Florida. His approval rating was just barely above water, his scandals were increasingly dominating the headlines, and polling had him only slightly ahead of potential Democratic opponents.
Oddly, I took a ton of heat for this, from both sides. Florida’s Republican Party leaders openly mocked me across social media, and even some of Florida’s Democratic Party leaders accused me of merely telling people what they want to hear. This told me that Republicans were way too overconfident when it came to DeSantis’ inherent vulnerability, while Florida Democrats were stuck in that bizarre and all too common mindset on the left that makes them think the only way to look judicious is to insist they’re going to lose.
But what do you know? New polling has Democratic candidate Charlie Crist one point ahead of Ron DeSantis in Florida. Yes, it’s just one poll, and yes, it’s by just one point. But at this stage of a race, more than a year out, a high profile incumbent like DeSantis should be well ahead based on name recognition alone. For him to be slightly behind someone on the other side, at this point in the race, sends up all kinds of red flags about his chances.
Notably, this same poll has DeSantis just three points ahead of another Democratic candidate, Nikki Fried. This is likely because she currently has less name recognition than Charlie Crist, a current Florida Congressman and former Florida Governor. As the primary race goes on and Fried’s profile starts to increase, we suspect she’ll pull ahead of DeSantis in polling as well.
So why is Ron DeSantis now in trouble? It’s largely for the same reasons I laid out a few months ago. His approval rating isn’t impressive. His numerous scandals have made him a national embarrassment. And because he’s a Trump copycat who isn’t savvy enough to realize that he needs to broaden his support, he keeps pandering to a minority of Florida’s voters while alienating the majority.
DeSantis keeps taking Trump-like positions, such as opposing mask mandates in Florida schools, that polls show are very unpopular. He seems locked into the idea that he has to pander to Trump’s base no matter what, even at the expense of alienating everyone else. And as Florida becomes such a COVID Delta variant disaster that even right wingers are starting to become scared of it, DeSantis will have an even bigger mess on his hands.
None of this is to say that Ron DeSantis is doomed. He’s going to do everything he can to cost himself reelection, because he has a really poor understanding of how politics works. But that will only matter if those of you reading this decide to put in the work required to win the election. We can elect a Democratic Governor of Florida next year, and we can end DeSantis’ presidential ambitions in the process. This will be one of the key elections in 2022.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report