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OPINION
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So, When Does Ron DeSantis Make That Difficult Decision?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Meg Kinnard

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's campaign appears to be stuck in neutral. He’s doing everything a national campaign should: releasing a white paper on economic policy, another on foreign affairs, visiting the early primary states, and raising boatloads of cash. The war chest is healthy-ish. They did burn through a lot, perhaps building a campaign infrastructure that was too big in hindsight, leading to dozens of staffers getting let go. Many of DeSantis’ initial donors gave the maximum allowed, so the flush super PAC, Never Back Down, is the alternative. 

DeSantis’ 2024 candidacy started with high hopes, but there’s a fear that it “peaked” too soon, for lack of a better term. Donald Trump has slain many GOP governors. Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, once viewed as a presidential contender, forever had that door closed when he ran in 2016. He sat atop the field briefly before Donald Trump did his thing. So, when must DeSantis, who has struggled to make inroads with the GOP base, make the difficult decision about this contest? 

It's an operation described as “rudderless,” though maybe that was overblown. I never expected DeSantis to overtake Trump when he first announced, but he should be healthier in the polls. He’s not. And with not one but two possible indictments facing the former president, Mr. Trump is bound to get another boost among Republican primary voters. Yet, as discussed on the Triggered Podcast, the early primary states’ polling oversamples the 65 and older vote. That’s a hardcore Trump constituency. Our straw poll has thousands of participants and has Trump in the lead, albeit in the low double-digits. That’s not too bad. 

What worries me is DeSantis’ reported low favorability numbers. That could be an issue for him; only Trump can coast to victory with similar numbers. The media is going to blow the latest trip-up. Still, their insight seems to be from healthy participation from moderate Republicans, like former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and the anti-Trump Lincoln Project. These folks are no oracles into the dynamics of the Republican Party: they like to give Democrats ammunition. 

This isn’t over, though the trend isn’t good. If things continue to go south for DeSantis regarding the inability to make inroads into the GOP base, the donor pool will dry up, and then who knows. DeSantis would become a cross between Jeb Bush, who also raised a ton of money, and Walker, whose rising star came crashing down. Let’s hold off until the Fall. The upcoming debates are where we’ll have a better handle on the situation (via NBC News): 

Ron DeSantis is weeks away from what could be the pivotal moment of his White House bid. 

Allies, donors and voters alike are looking at Aug. 23, the night of the first Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee, as the event that could re-establish the Florida governor as a strong alternative to former President Donald Trump — or, if things go poorly, deliver a death blow to an already ailing campaign. 

“The debate is of vital importance for Gov. DeSantis,” Dan Eberhart, a donor to the campaign, said. “He urgently needs to change the story arc and regain momentum.” 

While it’s still early, the debate kickoff is traditionally a time when audiences begin to more broadly tune into the presidential primary. 

While some of the news from this campaign isn’t positive, the house can’t be totally on fire right now. There’s still time for this to be a race between DeSantis and Trump which was always the case; the rest of the field is a joke. Yet, as Biden’s issues have multiplied, specifically with the FBI’s FD-1023 report on his involvement in an alleged bribery scheme with Burisma, the abysmal approval ratings, and his overall fragile demeanor—there are some stories from the establishment press that seem to acknowledge that the president could lose to Trump. The DeSantis camp could argue that if Trump could beat Biden, so could their guy. 

Let’s see how these debates go. If it's a dumpster fire, then maybe that talk around the DeSantis dinner table about what's next could happen at an earlier date. 

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