Brutal. There is no other word for the CNN-University Of New Hampshire poll that just dropped Thursday morning. Ron DeSantis has dropped 13 points since the same poll was taken in July and he’s cratering among moderates, down to six percent, fallen from 20%. He is now in the bottom of the poll, at 10%, with only Tim Scott at 6% and Mike Pence at 2% doing worse. It is truly time for Mike Pence to hang it up and Tim Scott might want to think about taking his nice Christian girlfriend, the one that either lives in Canada or goes to a different school, and going on vacation. Maybe they can double date with Mike and Mother Pence.
Regarding the DeSantis numbers, the Florida governor has seen a sharp drop-off among moderates, per the poll, from 26% backing him in July to 6% now. He fell a smaller 8 points among conservatives.
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) September 20, 2023
DeSantis’ mega-donors and influential backers have grown increasingly furious at the direction of his campaign, which has floundered amid a series of financial woes, bizarre campaign decisions, and questions about his ability to connect with voters.
He has a profound ability to connect with voters, unfortunately the reaction is to turn them off. The man has zero charm. He’s a lousy public speaker. He can’t think on his feet and his efforts to “act” like he’s somebody else come across as precisely that, an example of bad acting.
Numerous Republicans hoping to help place DeSantis in the White House have privately vented their rage at the current direction of the campaign. The Florida governor has also leaned harder into culture war issues that have so far failed to gain him traction with primary voters, including taking on Disney after after the company publicly opposed the administration’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, threatening Anheuser-Busch with a lawsuit for partnering with a transgender woman during a March promotion, and suggesting that he would consider anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as a potential FDA chief.
“I don’t think it’s the campaign’s fault at all; it’s his,” Republican strategist Ed Rollins told Rolling Stone in July. “I think he’s been a very flawed candidate. I know some of the people around him, and some of them are good, talented people. But every time he opens his mouth, he has a tendency to — shall we say — think out-loud, and he clearly doesn’t understand the game. … When you get into these culture wars the way that he has, the vast majority of people don’t understand what they are.”
He does not understand the game. And neither does his wife, Casey, who was touted as his Secret Weapon due to her looks and background as a local TV newscaster in Florida. Far from being a charmer, she is a motor mouth buffoon who tells tales of her out of control children wrecking hotel rooms and rampaging through the governor’s mansion, thinking that will endear her to suburban moms. It has just the opposite effect, she simply sounds ridiculous and conveys the impression that she and her husband don’t know how to parent. If a man can’t create order in his own household, how is he going to lead a nation of 330 million people?
Republican Camelot may be on the horizon somewhere for some GOP power couple but Ron and Casey DeSantis are not it. All they’re doing by staying in the race is prolonging the agony. It now becomes a matter of masochism how much longer DeSantis wants to stay in the race.
DeSantis has put all his eggs in the Iowa caucus basket, evidently not remembering even as far back as 2016, when Ted Cruz won Iowa and then washed out.
DeSantis’ fantasy has long been that he’ll take the lead when Trump finally crashes and burns via legal problems, incarceration, who knows what. That’s simply not the reality anymore. He is not running second, as the alternative to Trump. The field is wide open.
The new Granite State poll also undercuts a major DeSantis talking point: That the GOP primary, in New Hampshire and nationally, is a two-man race with Trump. It’s now a wide-open battle to see who’s in a distant second to the former president.
“DeSantis has always been an alternative to Trump rather than a vote for DeSantis,” said Andrew Smith, UNH pollster. “Anti-Trump Republicans are looking for a credible alternative to Trump, and it’s looking less and less like DeSantis is that candidate.”
Matthew Bartlett, a ubiquitous Republican campaign vet in New Hampshire, said DeSantis has a good conservative record of accomplishment. But some of his positions have been too far right for New Hampshire Republicans, including signing a six-week abortion ban.
At the beginning of the year, the Florida governor campaigned like the clear frontrunner without doing enough early on to cultivate the grassroots in the state, Bartlett said.
Again, and always, the GOP strategist, Ed Rollins, is right: DeSantis does not understand the game. And like anybody in a game they don’t understand, they’ll soon find themselves out of it.