Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been in a slump as of late. As his campaign prepares to undergo a reboot, polling seems to suggest that his second-place position might be in jeopardy if something does not change soon. But, as I’ve said before, it’s still early, and there is plenty of time for the governor to stage a comeback if his team plays its cards right.
DeSantis is experiencing a significant decline in support among GOP voters with college degrees, threatening his candidacy in the 2024 primary. Recent polls show that DeSantis’ support has dropped significantly among college-educated white voters compared to the beginning of the year:
A trio of Republican primary polls, including previously unpublished data obtained by McClatchyDC, show that Florida’s governor has suffered steep declines in support among GOP voters with at least a bachelor’s degree, an erosion that threatens to undermine his candidacy.
Their defections — which started in the spring and have continued this summer — are disproportionately responsible for DeSantis’ overall decline in the race, where polls show he now sits a distant second place to Trump. In all three surveys, the governor now has barely half the support with college-educated white voters that he did when the year began, larger drop-offs than he suffered with other demographic groups.
The numbers reflect a pressing problem for the Florida Republican as he seeks to reset his campaign amid fundraising concerns and flagging poll numbers, challenging him to recover the lost support among voters who once made him Trump’s top rival for the nomination. The national surveys paint a troubling picture for his campaign, even as his allies insist that recent state-level polling already shows his candidacy regaining momentum.
Some experts speculate that DeSantis’ adoption of a sharp-edged conservative agenda, including signing a law banning abortions and positioning himself as an “anti-woke” warrior, has alienated college-educated voters who once viewed him as a more pragmatic and mainstream politician. While his allies insist that his popularity is rebounding, the polls indicate a challenging road ahead for DeSantis as he competes with former President Donald Trump and other candidates for the nomination.
A new Fox Business poll shows that DeSantis is trailing behind Donald Trump and Nikki Haley in the 2024 GOP presidential race. Trump enjoys strong support, with nearly half of South Carolina likely Republican primary voters backing him. Haley has 14 percent of the vote, DeSantis has 13 percent, and Sen. Tim Scott has 10 percent. Winning South Carolina is crucial for early momentum in the primaries, and historically, every South Carolina winner except for Newt Gingrich in 2012 has gone on to secure the GOP nomination. However, it is worth noting that Haley and Scott are from the Palmetto State and enjoy much support there.
Overall, DeSantis remains a distant second place from Trump, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average. But Vivek Ramaswamy has managed to move into third place. Another recent poll had him tied with the governor. DeSantis has seen some gains in New Hampshire, but he still faces challenges in differentiating himself from Trump, who remains the most popular figure in the Republican Party.
In another poll conducted in Iowa, Trump also maintains a commanding lead over DeSantis and other candidates, while Tim Scott is catching up to DeSantis, despite initially polling in single digits on the national level. Trump’s popularity among college-educated GOP voters has improved since the beginning of the year, while DeSantis’ support has declined, further emphasizing the challenge of appealing to this demographic. Moreover, the former president does much better among conservative racial minorities than DeSantis and other candidates.
DeSantis’ campaign has faced scrutiny, with fundraising concerns and reports of a reset as he focuses on key states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. The rapid expenditure of campaign funds and difficulties in attracting small donors also add to the challenges for DeSantis in the 2024 race.
Can he turn it around? It’s possible, but his campaign will have to make some serious changes in how they approach the race. While most on the right oppose the hard left’s effort to push its “woke” ideology on the rest of us through the country’s major institutions, the governor has leaned far too heavily on the issue at the expense of others that voters care about. Trump, on the other hand, is decidedly anti-woke, but has also highlighted the economy, immigration, human trafficking, and other issues.
It is time for DeSantis to focus more heavily on policy than wokeism. He has already established that he opposes progressive efforts to indoctrinate children, push transgender ideology on young folks, and pursue other “woke” objectives. The conservative base needs to know why he is different from Trump and how he will succeed in areas that the former president failed. If this “reset” is going to work, Team DeSantis better start delivering the goods.