Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dismissed concerns about his struggling Republican presidential campaign, blaming the criticism on a supposed media “narrative”—as GOP strategists say his continuously declining poll numbers, series of missteps and failure to net endorsements have raised real concerns within the party about his ability to beat former President Donald Trump.
DeSantis said the criticism amounts to “narratives . . . the media [has created because] they do not want me to be the nominee,” he said, claiming to Fox News host Maria Bartiromo on Sunday that the press allegedly opposes him because “they know I’ll beat Biden, but even more importantly they know I’ll actually deliver on all these things,” noting his promises to tamp down on illegal immigration and government spending.
DeSantis chuckled indulgently as Bartiromo read him snippets from a Politico Playbook article titled “Failure to Launch,” detailing his sagging poll numbers and statements from Republican strategists about his lack of momentum.
The rebuttal mirrors DeSantis’ response in an earlier Fox interview last week, when he said “people like the corporate media” and Mexican president López Obrador, who recently called on Americans not to vote for DeSantis, are “targeting me as the person they don’t want to see as the candidate.”
The comments come after he was widely criticized over a perplexing video reposted by his campaign earlier this month that attacks Trump over his history of supporting LGBTQ rights issues, portrays DeSantis as a bulwark of machismo (albeit one whose eyes can shoot lightning bolts at his enemies) and features oddly homoerotic images of oiled, shirtless musclemen. (Also Brad Pitt as Achilles grieving over the death of his gay lover.)
29. That’s the number of points by which Trump leads DeSantis in polls, according to FiveThirtyEight’s poll tracker.
“Right now, in national polling, we are way behind. I’ll be the first to admit that,” Steve Cortes, former Trump advisor turned spokesperson for pro-DeSantis super-PAC Never Back Down, said on Twitter Spaces last week. “I believe in being really blunt and really honest. It’s an uphill battle.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said in an MSNBC interview on Sunday that DeSantis “has made some very large, critical errors” in his campaign by attempting to “out-Trump Trump,” calling his emphasis on culture wars “a profound political miscalculation and overcompensation.”
DeSantis launched his campaign on rocky footing with a glitch-plagued Twitter announcement that was widely mocked by his opponents, who said it showcased his lack of experience. Prior to his formal entrance into the race, some polls showed DeSantis narrowly beating Trump, but his odds have plummeted as Trump has ramped up criticism of DeSantis and used his own legal woes to fundraise and build support. Trump has cast DeSantis as “disloyal” for challenging him after Trump supported his political aspirations, attacked his personality, his response to the Covid-19 pandemic and his support for Social Security and tax reforms during his time in Congress. Trump has also amassed far more endorsements than DeSantis, including from the majority of Florida’s Republican congressional delegation.
DeSantis’ campaign has focused heavily on the first GOP primary state, Iowa, where he’s forged an alliance with Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, much to the chagrin of Trump’s campaign, the New York Times reported. Reynolds has referred to Iowa as the “Florida of the North,” while DeSantis has called his state “the Iowa of the Southeast.” Reynolds has lauded DeSantis’ signing of a six-week abortion ban, similar to the one she approved in Iowa, and appeared with him at a joint event in Des Moines last week. Reynolds has, however, repeatedly said she does not plan to endorse a candidate during the primary race.
What We Don’t Know
Who else could jump into the GOP primary race in an attempt to fill the Trump-alternative void. DeSantis’ decline has prompted Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to consider late entrances, the Hill reported, citing GOP strategists, some who noted Trump’s legal woes have put his campaign on shaky footing. Others said DeSantis has failed to differentiate himself from the ex-president and has struggled to make a personal connection with voters. At least ten other Republicans, in addition to Trump and DeSantis, have announced runs for president.