Aug 10, 2023 - Politics

GOP primary is "Trump's to lose" as DeSantis struggles

SUNRISE, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 26: U.S. President Donald Trump introduces Florida Governor Ron DeSantis during a homecoming campaign rally at the BB&T Center on November 26, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. President Trump continues to campaign for re-election in the 2020 presidential race.

Then-President Donald Trump introduces Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a South Florida campaign rally. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Three Florida men want to be president, but so far only one is standing out among the Republican candidates.

Driving the news: Former President Donald Trump is polling, on average, nearly 37 points ahead of his closest rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to FiveThirtyEight.

  • Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is polling at about 0.1% — tied for last among 11 Republican candidates, per FiveThirtyEight.
  • The winner of the Republican nomination will likely run against President Joe Biden in 2024.

Why it matters: DeSantis made a big splash when he entered the race in May fresh off a landslide reelection win in Florida. But messages that landed locally have failed to resonate nationally with Republican voters.

The big picture: Trump is the face of the Republican party and has maintained strong support despite being indicted three times this year — with a fourth indictment potentially coming.

  • The twice-impeached, twice-acquitted Palm Beach resident has labeled the prosecution as a political witch hunt, and Republican voters have stood behind him: 71% of respondents to a New York Times/Siena College poll released last week said Trump had not committed serious federal crimes and that Republicans need to support him.

Meanwhile, DeSantis has faced a number of recent setbacks: He fired more than a third of his campaign staff amid financial concerns, replaced his campaign manager and faced backlash from Black Republicans over new Florida education standards that say some Black people benefited from slavery.

What they're saying: Democratic pollster and strategist Fernand Amandi tells Axios the DeSantis campaign has been "one gargantuan train wreck after another."

  • "Empirically, and based on historical precedent, this nomination is over," he says. "It's Donald Trump's to lose."

The other side: UF political science professor Stephen Craig told The Guardian that primaries are unpredictable, so you can't assume Trump has already won. But he did say DeSantis has to correct his recent missteps.

  • "I think he's still a credible threat," Craig said. "But he's going to have to get his act together. He's showing some weakness and you can't really do that if you want to knock off the big guy."

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