There’s no way. Not in this national environment.

But it sure is interesting that people close to Trump, like Tony Fabrizio, want Republicans to believe that DeSantis isn’t cruising to reelection, as everyone assumes and expects.

Enlarge the image to read the full excerpt. Any chance DeSantis has against Trump in a 2024 primary depends on convincing righties that he’s the more electable candidate of the two. It’s the only argument DeSantis might have that, as nominee, he would own the libs harder than King Troll: The left might hate Trump but they’d hate losing an election decisively even more. Team DeSantis understands the importance of electability too. “Beating Trump’s 2020 margin of three percentage points in Florida has become a key campaign goal” among his aides and advisors, according to WaPo.

And by most accounts, he’s on his way to doing that. He leads Crist by 8.8 points in the RCP average, the sort of margin you’d expect in a year of a Republican tsunami. Frankly, as Americans turn more irate over inflation as the summer and fall wear on, I wouldn’t rule out a double-digit victory.

But if you believe Fabrizio, I’m deluding myself. Former governor Charlie Crist, a man whose name recognition is on par with DeSantis’s, actually leads this race narrowly. Huh.

If I had to concoct a narrative to justify Fabrizio’s numbers, it would go like this. First, all of the polling in the RCP average is outdated, with the latest survey having been conducted in February. Maybe there’s been a quiet backlash in Florida since then to the “don’t say gay” bill and DeSantis’s imperious attempt to punish Disney for mildly criticizing the legislation. Maybe Florida Dems also see the threat DeSantis poses to the party in 2024 and are mobilizing to take him down now, in the gubernatorial race, before he can build national momentum. And again, Crist is a well-known figure — it’s not like DeSantis is facing a Joe Schmo Democrat here. Why, another recent poll (from a pollster I’ve never heard of) had Crist leading 51/49, right in line with Fabrizio’s polling.

But it doesn’t add up. The “don’t say gay” bill is popular in Florida, according to polling. It’s not backlash material. DeSantis is popular too, notching a 56/38 approval rating in April per Morning Consult. Out-of-state Democratic donors haven’t been keen to donate to top races in Florida this year, fearing that trying to beat DeSantis and Marco Rubio in this political climate is a fool’s errand. The widespread perception on both sides, per Charles Cooke, is that Florida is in the bag for Republicans this cycle:

Outside of the PR shops, you will be hard-pressed to find anyone involved in politics who believes that the Democrats are going to win here in November. The gubernatorial race is presumed to be over. The Senate race is presumed to be over. Most of the races for the House are presumed to be over, and so is the contest for control of the statehouse. The Democratic Governors Association is essentially sitting this year out in the state, as are many of the donors who would like to see Marco Rubio gone from Washington, D.C. And the future? That’ll be an uphill climb, too. In 2008, the Democratic Party enjoyed a registration advantage in Florida of more than 700,000 voters. By the 2020 election, that lead had shrunk to 134,242, and today, it is gone entirely. In December 2021, the Florida Republican Party announced that, for the first time in the history of the state, it had a voter-registration advantage over the Democrats. By March of this year, that advantage had increased above 100,000. It is still growing.

It would be passing strange for Charlie Crist to be leading DeSantis amid a sea change in voter registration towards the GOP. Which raises the question: Where on earth did Fabrizio get the idea that he is?

Maybe we have an answer:

The poll didn’t screen for likely voters. In other words, Fabrizio’s survey is agnostic as to whether there might be a wide turnout gap between Republicans and Democrats this fall, which there surely will be.

And so we face another question. Why is a poll whose methodology is questionable being circulated among Trump cronies, who reportedly “really hate” DeSantis, and to members of the press?

One possibility is that TrumpWorld is trying to plant seeds of doubt about DeSantis’s vaunted electability among Republicans who might otherwise prefer him on those grounds to Trump. The weaker his polling looks, the less reason there is not to stick with the big dog in 2024. But that doesn’t add up either, as voters will issue a formal verdict on DeSantis in November. If anything, polls like Fabrizio’s that lowball his support are teeing up DeSantis to seem more impressive to GOP voters. If TrumpWorld’s polls have the race a toss-up this fall and DeSantis ends up winning by eight points, it’ll make him look even more electable than he appeared to be on paper.

I think the reason they’re leaking the poll is to try to convince DeSantis fans that he needs Trump out on the trail for him in Florida in order to win. Anytime DeSantis’s name is mentioned to him, Trump is quick to say, “I was very responsible for him getting elected.” If Team DeSantis eventually invites Trump to campaign for him, as TrumpWorld probably expects he will, Trump will then look to take credit for DeSantis’s successful reelection — a blow to DeSantis’s electability pitch. Whereas if Trump doesn’t campaign for him and DeSantis wins big, then he’s suddenly his own man. The point of the Fabrizio poll, I take it, is to signal that DeSantis might not only benefit but might need Trump’s help in order to prevail. Which makes me wonder: Will DeSantis refuse to ask Trump to campaign for him? What if Trump publicly offers and the offer is rejected? As I said last night, the next two years of maneuvering between the two will be pure fun.

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