Er … nope. But for one day only, the media want to believe, man.
In one sense, CBS has today’s primary in Florida correct — it’s “all about Ron DeSantis.” The incumbent governor isn’t facing any challenger in the GOP primary today. Instead, Democrats want to use the general election in 2022 to take some wind out of the sails of a potential 2024 Republican presidential nominee:
Primary races in Florida and New York could have major national implications.
— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) August 23, 2022
Fair enough, but every day in Florida has been “all about Ron DeSantis,” and has been for some time. DeSantis himself assured it by aggressively staking out right-populist positions on a broad range of issues; CBS’s Caitlin Huey-Burns points out DeSantis’ push for parental rights in education, but that’s only one bullet point in a broad campaign. DeSantis has been pushing back against abortion, sex-change surgeries for minors, illegal immigration, and even still had time to derail a progressive prosecutor for refusing to enforce the law.
Democrats have had months to take the wind out of DeSantis’ sails. All they have wound up doing is fanning the winds right back into them.
The Hill dutifully asks the question of whether DeSantis can be beat in 2022, but that’s just a tepid thought experiment in the end:
The party’s voters on Tuesday are set to choose between Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), a former Republican governor who’s making his second attempt at reclaiming his old office, and state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the lone statewide elected Democrat, in the primary to challenge DeSantis this fall.
But while few Republicans ignite the same kind of outrage among Democrats as DeSantis does, it’s unclear whether the party has the candidates — or the firepower — to oust a governor whose political rise among conservatives appears, at times, unstoppable.
Fernand Amandi, a Miami-based Democratic pollster who helped former President Obama win the state in 2008 and 2012, said that just a few months ago, DeSantis looked “unbeatable.” But since then, he said, the political landscape has shifted drastically, thanks in no small part to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the seminal abortion rights case.
“He now looks vulnerable,” Amandi said. “That doesn’t mean he’s going to be defeated, but it means the dynamics have changed enough at the national level that what once looked like a sure thing is now a potentially competitive race.”
“He now looks vulnerable”? Based on what, exactly? His RCP aggregate average against Democrat Nikki Fried is nearly at double digits 51/41.4. It’s only slightly smaller against Charlie Crist (49.4/43.2). Fried has never led in a head-to-head poll throughout this cycle, and Crist only led in one outlier result from the St. Pete Polls and that was by a single point. The most recent four polls in that race have DeSantis up by six and eight points, including a later survey from the same St. Pete Polls.
Could Democrats consolidate after today’s primary and seriously challenge DeSantis? It’s possible, of course, but contra Amandi, there’s no evidence to suggest it. DeSantis is polling around or above 50% against both candidates, a pretty comfy position for an incumbent, plus Democrats have spent all year throwing the kitchen sink against him. Arguably, they’ve been doing so since the beginning of 2021, when DeSantis became the focus of a MAGA Plan B.
Democrats will certainly spend tons of money in Florida testing Amandi’s hypothesis. Some of that will go to help Val Demings against Marco Rubio in the Senate race, which at least for now looks a little more promising for Democrats. But neither Fried nor Crist have much chance of knocking out DeSantis in this cycle … or the next.