DeSantis looks unstoppable right now
As the year after an election year progresses, and the Republican Party reels in from a devastating loss to the Democrats lead by President Joe Biden, it appears as if there may be some shake-ups going on behind the scenes. Both behind closed doors and in the minds of Republican voters, decisions are being made as to what's the next best step for a party beleaguered by a painful loss. Former President Trump remains wildly popular in the party, especially with the party's far-right wing, a demographic that propelled him to the heights of the presidency back in 2016 with a surprise upset over Hillary Clinton.
But moderate Republicans aren't so sure. In the wake of the election, Trump engaged in quite a lot of sore-loserism and bemoaned the election as "rigged" in a series of statements and tweets. Many fear, rightly, that this has been an egregious assault on the sanctity of the American Republic. And even wilder than that was the January 6th uprising that almost saw our U.S. Capitol sacked and overthrown.
Members of Congress, including Trump's own Vice President Mike Pence, were placed directly in harm's way. American Democracy was on the cusp of possibly being destroyed. And for many in the party who may have followed Trump in the years prior, this was a bridge too far.
Naturally, many are looking for other outlets, other leaders to step up in the party and fill the vacuum that Trump has left behind, however quietly. The split between the two groups is mostly silent, with everyone waiting to see what comes next. And one potential challenger as the leader of the Republican Party has emerged. That man is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
A GOP donor named Dan Eberhart spoke about DeSantis' sudden rise to stardom, both in Florida and in the national discourse amongst Republican Party members, saying:
As a DeSantis supporter, I worry that he may peak too early. I think that these things are incredibly important in trying to thread the needle to become president. So DeSantis has got to win reelection in 2022 - that's a must - and he's got to continue to court favor with the Sean Hannity crowd, and build his chits in the party, but he's got to do all this without angering Trump specifically or Trump's base and the other bigwigs in the party. And I think it's really hard to stay on top of that beach ball for too long.
Eberhart was a supporter of DeSantis' 2018 campaign to become the Florida Governor and has supported him every step of the way since then. Another party donor said:
"The party - the base loves Trump. That's not in doubt here, OK? But I think there's interest in DeSantis because he stands for really the same thing. He goes to bat on the same issues."
In the meanwhile, DeSantis has been doing a lot around Florida to boost both his visibility and favorability. His ratings have been up since early this year as he passes policies that are popular with the conservative base, as well as some sensible environmental policies that meet in the middle.
Besides the slew of controversial bills, like the ban on Critical Race Theory in Florida public schools (even though Critical Race Theory isn't taught in a single Florida public school), new voting restrictions that might make our voting experience more of a headache, a ban on so-called "vaccine passports," and a contentious transgender youth ban in sports, he's done some more middle-of-the-road legislating.
Beyond mere words, he's promised and delivered a plan to finally clean up the Everglades. Our Everglades are a series of ecosystems that are in turmoil, threatening the gorgeous wildlife that draws so many to our beautiful state of Florida. He's given teachers raises. That sits well with just about everybody in Florida. He's given $1,000 bonuses to first responders, police, EMTs, and firefighters.
So it should come as no surprise that the Florida governor has also raised $30 million in funds since the beginning of the year, 2021. This means that should anything happen to Trump, DeSantis is the guy who'll likely fill the vacuum left behind in the Republican Party.
DeSantis is now starting to poll higher than Trump for a possible presidential bid in 2024, earning 74% of the vote in a recent straw poll of Republican voters to Trump's 70%.
Who knows, the party may ultimately decide that DeSantis is just a better candidate going forward. A GOP donor speaking to The Hill referred to DeSantis as "a little more polished" than Donald Trump. And suppose it comes down to that for Republicans, both in Florida and nationally, DeSantis has a lot of money and esteem in his corner.
On May 14th, DeSantis polled with an approval rating of a whopping 55% in one poll. His handling of the pandemic scored 70% positive ratings for his handling of the Florida vaccine program. And even CNN is starting to eat their words after a year of criticizing his handling of the pandemic, saying that it might be time to take a second look at Florida's handling of the pandemic.
It should be noted that it's still early. DeSantis needs to best former governor Charlie Crist and Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried before he can secure reelection. And Trump still dominates Republican Party politics, there's no doubt about that. But should he be needed, DeSantis just might position himself to be the rightful heir to Trump's legacy.
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