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Shock Poll: DeSantis' Lead in Florida Is Now...

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Let's face it: The only thing that would truly count as a "shock poll" in Florida these days is a survey showing Gov. Ron DeSantis trailing, or only leading within the margin of error. The recent poll mentioned in my headline does...not show that. I'm calling its results shocking nevertheless because Florida is a battleground state. Bill Clinton won the Sunshine State en route to his re-election victory, then George W. Bush won it twice before Barack Obama won it twice – after which Donald Trump won it twice. That's pretty swingy.  

Which is why numbers like this are just astonishing: 


This may be a red-tinted outlier, but other recent polling has also shown DeSantis and other Florida Republicans roaring ahead, so feast your eyes on these margins: 


This is also important context for DeSantis' approval rating in his state, which ranges from 10-21 points above water at the moment, depending on the survey: 

DeSantis was supposed to lose, per the polls, and the press will never forgive him for defying their expectations. Journalists and their fellow Democrats thought that COVID was an opportunity to take him out, and boy, have they tried. And despite their ferocious efforts, the guy appears to be on a glide path to an easy, if not dominant, re-election. They fear him for good reason. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that DeSantis is going to win this year. His victory margin could become a relevant data point ahead of 2024. If he's thinking about running for president, DeSantis has a strong story to tell, and he's telling that story to Floridians right now. But if he wants to present himself to the broader GOP electorate as their best chance at prevailing in a national general election, a commanding Florida win would certainly help bolster his argument. If he secures re-election by low single-digits, that'll count, of course, but it won't be overly impressive. Mid-to-high single digits would be much more of a feat to achieve in a closely-divided, populous, diverse swing state. Closely approaching or cracking double digits would be a thunderclap.

Former President Trump has been dropping heavy hints that he's gearing up to run again in two years, and has certainly been acting like someone with that intent. If DeSantis decides to make his play (as opposed to "waiting his turn") and mount a serious challenge to Trump, he'll need to credibly communicate to voters why he represents the more viable would-be nominee, versus the ex-president. Recent surveys suggest that the Florida governor could very much be in the hunt in a battle against Trump. DeSantis would undoubtedly tout his record of governance, especially, on COVID. He'd likely try to reference Trump's baggage as an issue, albeit in a manner that doesn't overly alienate base voters who remain highly supportive of the former president – and some DeSantis supporters or surrogates might also whisper about Trump's age (pushing 80 by that point, compared to DeSantis' mid-40's). The overall message would need to be: We agree Trump did great things as president, but it's time to move forward and win. A smashing re-election win in DeSantis' back pocket would fortify that case. In case you missed – and in case you're interested in some remarks that depart dramatically from last night's State of the Union – here is DeSantis' (very well-received but interesting-timed) CPAC speech, as well as the conference's straw poll results: 


Good news for the Trump '24 crowd, obviously, with a counterpoint or two. These discussions are clearly very premature, but if you don't think the principals aren't actively gaming things out already, you're kidding yourself. I'll leave you with this: 

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