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Tipsheet

Liberal Heartache: New Poll Shows DeSantis Rolling in Florida -- But What About 2024?

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

We've recently reviewed two polls from the political hotspot of Georgia, where leading Republicans currently hold slim-to-moderate leads over their would-be Democratic opponents in both the gubernatorial and Senate contests.  The results suggest that if the center-right can unify (very much an open question), and if the overall political environment remains very weak for Democrats, the GOP has a very good chance of sweeping statewide.  Just south of Georgia is another state that has garnered outsized national attention in recent years.  It's the state the media and liberals love to hate, led by a man who has received relentless -- and often preposterous -- incoming fire throughout the pandemic.  Gov. Ron DeSantis' critics would have you believe he's a corrupt, anti-vax science denier who's suppressed COVID data and misreported deaths, while engaging in a politically-motivated experiment in human sacrifice and misery.  Follow the links in that previous sentence -- it's all nonsense.  

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But it's been abundantly clear that since DeSantis defied the polls and disrupted the Left's planned Florida takeover narrative in 2018, the knives have been out for him.  That's only intensified as he's emerged as a popular Republican who may be capable of uniting the Trump-loving and Trump-skeptical elements of the party on a national scale.  The Democrats and their media henchmen view him as a threat.  Trump apparently does too, for that matter.  Amid all the searing criticism and unhinged attacks against him, how is DeSantis' re-election campaign shaping up?  A new USA Today/Suffolk poll suggests that the nation's largest and most diverse swing state is in prime position for a red wave in November, with DeSantis at the top of the ticket:

The new poll also contains some good news for the two top Florida Republicans seeking re-election. DeSantis, the first-term governor who narrowly won election in 2018, leads both of the top Democrats vying to replace him. The new poll says DeSantis tops congressman and former governor Charlie Crist by 49%-43%; his lead over Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried is 51%-40%...Another prominent Florida Republican – Sen. Marco Rubio – currently leads in his re-election bid, according to the poll. The poll gave Rubio a 49%-41% lead over Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Val Demings, while the remaining 10% are undecided.

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DeSantis leads by six-to-eleven points over his top challengers, while Sen. Marco Rubio is up by eight points.  These aren't insurmountable advantages, of course, but in a state like Florida they are rather substantial.  What jumps out at me is that after a merciless campaign of national demonization, DeSantis' favorable rating is +10 in the state of Florida, fully 21 net points better than President Biden's.  Rubio is also in positive territory.  The incumbent Senator's opponent is largely unknown, suggesting she has room to grow, though part of Rubio's task will be to define her early and lower her ceiling.  The news for Biden is universally dreary in the Sunshine State:

Florida voters by a 30-point margin believe the country is on the wrong track (28% right, 58% wrong), with President Biden’s approval rating at 39% approve and 53% disapprove. Biden’s approval rating for his handling of the pandemic was closer at 45% approve, 48% disapprove. However, voters panned his handling of the economy (36% approve, 57% disapprove).

Unless these trajectories are significantly altered in the coming months, the Democrats are on track to get wiped out in Florida. It currently appears as though they're especially doomed with the embarrassingly deranged conspiracy theorist Nikki Fried, the state's Agriculture Commissioner, atop the ticket. I'd guess Team DeSantis is rooting for that matchup, though they'd have plenty of material against Crist, a shameless and rudderless shape-shifter who's run for office in Florida as a Republican, a Democrat, and an independent. He believes nothing.  The new statewide survey also looks ahead (way too far ahead) to 2024.  I put less stock in these numbers, given how distant that cycle remains, but some of the findings are intriguing:

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Florida voters would choose Governor Ron DeSantis for president in 2024, if he were the Republican nominee, over President Biden by 52%-44%, a new Suffolk University/USA TODAY network poll of Florida voters likely to vote in midterm elections finds. The poll finds that Florida voters would also prefer former President Donald Trump over Biden (47%-44%) in what appears to be a tighter matchup. Despite DeSantis’ larger lead over Biden, in a hypothetical Republican primary between Trump and DeSantis, Trump leads the Florida governor by 7 points (47%-40%). Biden’s low approval ratings not only indicate vulnerability in the 2024 general election in Florida, but also in a Democratic primary in that state. In a hypothetical Democratic primary matchup between former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Biden, Clinton edges Biden 46%-43%. Both DeSantis and Trump would defeat Clinton by 13 and 7 points, respectively.

Biden is in rough shape at the moment, trailing even Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical primary, and lagging both DeSantis and Trump head-to-head.  Florida's GOP primary voters prefer Trump over DeSantis, but not by a dominant margin.  DeSantis is the stronger general election performer against the Democrats in this poll, leading Biden by eight points (versus Trump's three), and Clinton by 13 points (versus Trump's seven).  2024 is lightyears away, but if DeSantis can cruise to a relatively easy re-election this fall, then start positioning himself as a more viable national torch-carrier for a Trumpified (I use that term descriptively, not positively or pejoratively) Republican Party, things could get interesting.  I could well come down to whether conservative voters have an appetite for endlessly reliving 2020, or if they want to have a stronger chance of winning by looking forward.  It's unclear which approach they'll favor by mid-2023.  Relatedly, I'll leave you with this:

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