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The DeSantis conundrum

DeSanits Article by Josh Kraushaar WWSG
Thought Leader: Josh Kraushaar
March 26, 2023
Source: Axios
Written by: Josh Kraushaar

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ biggest political asset is that he’s viewed favorably by nearly all of the Republican Party’s voters — across the ideological spectrum.

Yes, but: His biggest challenge is that those sky-high approval numbers are likely to falter now that he’s sparring with former President Trump — and as he makes tough decisions on where he stands on hot-button national issues.

Why it matters: So far in his public pronouncements, DeSantis has left little daylight between himself and Trump on policy — on Ukraine (at first), his combative tone on cultural fights and skepticism toward COVID-19 vaccines (where he’s positioned himself to Trump’s right).

Zoom in: Polling shows that DeSantis’ core support is from Republicans who identify themselves as “somewhat conservative.” Trump’s base is predominantly among those who consider themselves “very conservative.”

Reality check: With Trump’s lead over DeSantis growing over the last month, it’s likelier that Trump’s support among the MAGA base will be hard to dislodge.

By the numbers: Polling suggests that a clear majority of GOP voters consider themselves party-first Republicans rather than Trump-first Republicans.

Our thought bubble: If DeSantis doesn’t live up to expectations, the most apt comparison to his campaign could end up being that of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in 2016.

The intrigue: If he keeps pandering to the most hardline conservative voters, DeSantis risks being caricatured as too hard-edged, even for some Republicans.

The bottom line: DeSantis has already built up a deep well of credibility with the GOP base because of his opposition to COVID regulations and success in enacting “anti-woke” policies.

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