Doral, Florida - Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida is running for the Republican presidential nomination next year, but since his formal announcement a few weeks ago, his campaign has struggled to get traction in the polls. DeSantis trails Donald Trump by around 30 percentage points, but now an Echelon Insights poll taken in June 26-29 shows him falling even further behind at 49% to 16%, down three points since May. At the same time, Vivek Ramaswamy, an anti-woke entrepreneur, has taken over third place in this poll, right behind DeSantis and gaining at 10%, up two points since May. No other candidate has more than five percent.
After Trump stumbled in the midterm elections of November 2022, and given the 19-percentage point victory by DeSantis in Florida, DeSantis surged as the young unsullied challenger to the old spattered war horse in Trump. However, DeSantis peaked in the polls right after his inauguration in January, and a couple of months later Trump had bounced back and has kept a commanding lead in the polls since then.
DeSantis is an attractive conservative presidential candidate, especially on social issues, but he has limited national recognition and he has failed to convey a winning economic message. He is capable of doing so, but has not done it. Meanwhile, mostly as a result of the unfair prosecutions and lawsuits he faces, Trump has become the champion of liberty against the totalitarian tyranny of the administrative state. Trump fits the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, he is the man of the moment, and DeSantis has failed to recognize that. If DeSantis does not correct this mistake soon, then he will also hurt his chances for 2028, and will diminish his influence in Florida for the remainder of his term as governor. Even in Florida, DeSantis trails Trump by around 50 percentage points, despite DeSantis enjoying the support of the state Republican establishment.
Vivek Ramaswamy, on the other hand, is an anti-woke entrepreneur who has launched his presidential campaign based on championing libertarian and conservative ideas and policies. He has avoided attacking Trump, and will likely win a prominent job in Trump’s cabinet.
Dining and Fundraising
With the polling situation so precarious, Governor DeSantis reached out to the Republican establishment of Miami-Dade, the largest and wealthiest county in the state. Last Saturday evening, he attended their Lincoln Day dinner for some dining and fundraising.
Compared with last year’s Lincoln Day dinner in the Fountainbleu Hotel, Miami Beach, this year’s dinner in the Turnberry Resort, Aventura (both owned by the Soffer family) was a more intimate affair. This year there were around 400 guests, compared with around 1,200 guests last year. The Governor was the featured speaker both years, so his appeal must be getting more selective. . The initial price for individual seats this year was $350, but came down to $200 during the week before the dinner. People were more willing to support DeSantis for re-election last year, than for his presidential campaign this year.
Most state legislators, county commissioners and other Republican office holders in Miami-Dade County hosted one of the 40 or so tables. The other tables were mostly hosted by: special interests like Miami Realtors, Latin Builders Association, MasTec and Florida Power & Light; lobbyists like Corcoran Partners and Ronald Book (father of the Democrat Senate minority leader); and public-sector unions like the South Florida Police Benevolent Association, the Florida State Fraternal Order of Police and its Miami affiliate, and the South Florida Council of Firefighters.
Around 90% of Florida Republican state legislators have endorsed the Governor’s presidential campaign, while over 50% of Florida Republican voters tell pollsters that they prefer Trump, highlighting the disconnect between the government and the governed. The overwhelming majority of Florida Republican Congressmen, however, support Trump, and the South Florida delegation in Washington - - Senator Rubio and Congressmen Diaz-Balart, Salazar-Woerner and Gimenez - - did not attend this dinner.
The Governor came into the ballroom to give his speech at the start of the event, then left right after finishing his speech, without mingling with the guests. He started by observing that Miami-Dade County had flipped overwhelmingly Republican last year, but did not explore why that occurred and how it can be sustained.
His speech mostly fell flat and was unpersuasive, meandering through the various achievements of his governorship, not addressing his presidential campaign, and not tying together the various factors into a coherent argument. The speech was missing a unifying theme. There was no attack on Trump, and there was no convincing ending. He did not win over the crowd, but perhaps he did not think that he had to do that, given that most guests were there from party duty and not as enthusiastic supporters. Last year’s dinner felt like a celebration, but this year it was all business: the business of the party.
Governor DeSantis is smart enough that he will soon understand that he has made a mistake by launching his presidential campaign when he did. He listened too much to his own ego, to his wife’s ambition, and to the urgings of donors who understand business and finance, but not politics, and of consultants looking for another attractive candidate to feed on. He also is letting himself be used by some of the worst of the Never-Trump RINO’s, such as Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, Jeb Bush and Karl Rove. Ron should know better.