Another day, more bad news for the 2024 bid of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is now shedding roughly a third of his campaign staff, according to the Associated Press.
Including staffing cuts announced several weeks ago, the DeSantis campaign has axed nearly 40 employees in total from its payrolls. It’s all part of a campaign “reboot” that is already looking to be a strategic bust.
Whatevs, just add the layoffs to the months-long glut of pitiful headlines for Team DeSantis. Actually, it’s far past time for Republican donors hoping to keep Donald Trump from becoming the Republican nominee to finally pull the plug on the DeSantis campaign. The sooner he’s out, the sooner someone more capable of consolidating the not-Trump vote (anti-Trumpers and pro-Trumpers open to alternatives) can get to work.
It’s not just that DeSantis is losing handily to Trump, it’s that he hasn’t demonstrated the ability to mount a winning national campaign on any level despite starting off with promising name-ID and favorables coming off his decisive 2022 reelection.
Let’s review just how irredeemable DeSantis’ campaign is:
Nationally, DeSantis’ favorable rating has done nothing but drop like a rock the more voters looked under the hood, sinking 13 points from 46% favorable on Election Day last year to 33% now. (Worse than Trump’s favorables at 36%!) This month alone, DeSantis’ favorables among Republican voters have dipped 4 points from 74% to 70%.
The same is true for the national horse race. At year’s outset, DeSantis trailed Trump by just 6 points in FiveThirtyEight’s aggregate. Now DeSantis is a whopping 33 points behind, 19%-52%.
DeSantis has simultaneously tanked in early primary states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
In March, for instance, Trump support appeared to be softening in a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll conducted by polling guru J. Ann Selzer testing candidate favorability. In Trump-DeSantis head to heads through March and April, DeSantis was polling at a solid 35% or higher, though still trailing Trump by double-digits in most surveys.
But DeSantis failed to consolidate the not-Trump vote. In the three most recent Iowa polls testing multiple candidates, DeSantis tops out at just 16% or less while Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina has pulled within roughly a handful of points in each poll.
Recent New Hampshire polling tells a very similar story, with DeSantis mired at 15% or less in three of four July polls, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie running third at somewhere between 7%-10%. (Scott ties Christie at 8% in one of those three surveys.)
And in South Carolina, the only July poll shows former U.N. ambassador and Palmetto State Gov. Nikki Haley overtaking DeSantis for second:
- Trump: 48%
- Haley: 14%
- DeSantis: 13%
- Scott: 10%
- Everyone else in single digits.
Iowa and New Hampshire voters have had an opportunity by now to actually see DeSantis in person, hear his pitch, and maybe even interact with him. That type of personal touch campaigning can really boost candidates beyond their national polling, but in DeSantis’ case, it’s clearly hurt him while helping his rivals.
DeSantis is neither a great orator nor a skilled retail politician. If he were good at the latter, he would have consolidated support in early states rather than shedding voters to other candidates.
As for his ability to give soaring speeches a lá Barack Obama, or even provide the entertainment value of Trump, can any of us for one second imagine listening to DeSantis in an arena setting for more than 10 minutes, tops? People would be crawling over broken glass to escape.
DeSantis has mismanaged his campaign from the start. His 18-state strategy was bound to incinerate cash and put him in a financial bind. It’s only July, nearly a month out from the first Republican debate (Aug. 23), and he’s already cutting a third of his staff while an up-and-comer like Scott is rising in the polls and a pro-Scott super PAC just made a $40 million ad buy in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
Perhaps DeSantis’ campaign knew he would be hopelessly bad at retail politicking in the early states and devised a long-term strategy that was less intimate and candidate-focused for that very reason. Or maybe he and his closest aide, Casey DeSantis (his wife), opted for that avenue because he appears to be an insufferable misanthrope.
Whatever the case, candidates who opt for a long-haul strategy over being a competitive and pervasive presence in one of the early states never survive—or at least they haven’t since the ’70s when Jimmy Carter pioneered the early-state strategy. Just ask Mike Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani how giving everyone else a head start in advance of their supposed Super Tuesday blitz worked out.
DeSantis’ reboot strategy of giving voters “more Ron” is as hopelessly flawed as his original strategy mostly because, as mentioned, he’s a terrible candidate who’s a dreadful retail politician with zero oratory skills. Also, you simply can’t say “more Ron” without saying “moron.”
Taken together, the whole of DeSantis’ deficits are devastating—insurmountable, in fact—even if a capable campaign manager tried to triage his candidacy. DeSantis had an early opening to prove himself, and all he did was parlay a good polling start and a huge cash advantage into a dive-bomb of a campaign.
So if the goal is truly to defeat Trump in the GOP primary, the best course of action is to cut one’s losses with DeSantis and give someone else a chance. The sooner DeSantis is tossed aside, the sooner someone like Scott, Haley, Christie, or tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy can make a play for newly candidate-less DeSantis voters. The longer DeSantis stays in at this point, the more he will serve as Trump’s moat, keeping the other challengers at bay.