Republican presidential hopefuls face an increasingly uphill battle to beat former President Donald Trump in the GOP primaries — including far right Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida), who was once considered a leading candidate for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination.
Though DeSantis has not yet formally declared himself a candidate, many believe that an upcoming campaign announcement is all but certain. DeSantis’s extremist right-wing rule over the Sunshine State has made him a darling among far right conservatives and powerful segments of the American ruling class, who have been galvanized by his anti-LGBTQ policies, his attacks on education and lessons on Black history, and his push to restrict abortion access.
For a time, DeSantis was seen as the most likely person to mount a serious challenge to Trump’s claim as party leader. Recently, however, DeSantis’s popularity has fizzled out, especially among Republican lawmakers in Congress.
Numerous Florida Republican members of the House of Representatives have endorsed Trump over DeSantis in recent weeks. Notably, DeSantis was once part of Florida’s congressional delegation, while Trump declared himself a Florida resident in 2020 after facing widespread opposition in his home state of New York.
So far, Trump has received seven endorsements from Florida’s congressional delegation, while DeSantis has received just one.
“No surprise that DeSantis wasn’t going to get Matt Gaetz or Anna Paulina Luna. But to lose [GOP Reps.] Greg Steube, Brian Mast and Byron Donalds — the type of FL Republicans you’d expect to be on the DeSantis bandwagon — is a leading indicator something not right with the RD outreach,” Josh Kraushaar, a Fox News radio personality, said on Twitter.
After recent meetings with DeSantis and a group of Texas Republicans, Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Texas) also announced that he would be backing Trump.
“After careful consideration and a positive meeting with Governor DeSantis, I have decided to endorse President @realDonaldTrump for 2024,” Gooden wrote.
Trump has received nine endorsements from Republicans in the Senate, whereas DeSantis has received none. Forty-three House GOP members have endorsed Trump, while only three have endorsed DeSantis.
DeSantis is also losing support among Republican voters. Polling from just two months ago suggested that DeSantis was leading among a plurality of Republican voters in a hypothetical race against Trump and other possible GOP contenders. Now, however, he polls well below Trump, who has a commanding lead over all potential GOP candidates.
According to an aggregate of polling data from RealClearPolitics over the past few weeks, Trump has around 52.3 percent support among Republican voters. DeSantis, who came in second place in the average of polls, garnered only 23.6 percent support.
Trump’s high polling numbers are likely bolstered by his recent indictment by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, which he seized as an opportunity to rally far right lawmakers and the Republican base. But DeSantis’s numbers against Trump began to slip weeks ago, even before Trump prematurely predicted the date he’d be formally charged.
Progressive activists and scholars have warned that both DeSantis and Trump are actively pushing the GOP further into fascism, and have encouraged President Joe Biden to enact progressives policies if he wants a potential 2024 campaign to be successful.
Polling shows that Trump and Biden, the respective presumptive nominees for the Republican and Democratic parties, are currently statistically tied. Biden won the 2020 election in large part by backing popular progressive proposals — including the expansion of social programs to address poverty, an aggressive administrative handling of the climate crisis and a humane approach to immigration reform. Since taking office, however, Biden has largely failed to deliver, and in many cases taken an undeniably rightward turn.
“I would say the base isn’t overly enthusiastic about Joe Biden being the  standard bearer,” Joseph Geevarghese, executive director of the progressive group Our Revolution, recently told The Guardian, adding that it’s important for the president to “keep folks energized early” by pursuing progressive policies.
“I think the Democrats’ only winnable strategy is to embrace and get behind the largest voting bloc for them, and that is young people. That’s people of color and working people,” said Michele Weindling, the electoral director of the Sunrise Movement. “Casting our needs aside to appeal to a smaller faction of centrist voters is pretty foolish before a huge election cycle like 2024.”
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