Is Ron DeSantis not yet ready for prime time?” asked Matt Lewis on The Daily Beast. Many Republicans thought the Florida governor had the best shot at wrestling the 2024 GOP presidential nomination away from Donald Trump, but his“ performance over recent weeks “has not instilled confidence”.
DeSantis has flip-flopped on a number of issues, including his support for Ukraine. In a televised interview with Piers Morgan, he lacked “charisma and confidence”, relying on scripted talking points and laughing in a rather forced, “creepy” manner.
He appeared uncomfortable when asked about Donald Trump’s belittling nicknames and vicious smears of him as “a groomer” of teenage girls, and generally came across as “out of his league”.
With the poll gap with Trump widening, it’s beginning to look as if DeSantis’s White House bid may be over even before it has officially begun.
“DeSantis has never been tested,” said Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post, “and it shows.”
He became a rising right-wing star by passing attention-grabbing culture war bills through Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature while keeping the press at arm’s length. Away from his Tallahassee “comfort zone”, he’s feeling the pressure.
“DeSantis is doing a book tour. He’s barnstorming the country, and his polls are going down,” said one party strategist, noting that this is “not a good look” at a time when Trump’s polls are going up, though he is facing criminal charges.
Despite his sagging poll numbers, DeSantis still has plenty of support among GOP donors, said Sally Goldenberg on Politico.
His promise of calm, focused leadership holds great appeal to those tired of Trump’s chaos and drama.
The finance industry “grew to loathe” the former president’s “penchant for attacking individual companies and firing off market-shaking tweets”.
The criminal charges could distract or damage Trump, clearing the way for DeSantis. Or they could bind Trump’s supporters closer to him, dashing his rival’s chances of assembling a winning coalition.
I suspect that the latter is more likely, said Alex Shephard in The New Republic. Trump appeared a spent force at the end of last year, in the wake of the Republicans’ disappointing midterm elections and his “low-energy” campaign launch.
But his position strengthened once he began training his fire on DeSantis. The Florida governor, like previous Republican challengers such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, has discovered how hard it is to confront Trump while simultaneously trying not to alienate too many of the former president’s followers.
DeSantis, against a no-holds-barred brawler like Trump, comes across as weak. It’s still early days in the 2024 race, but DeSantis “just looks lost. It’s the same look we’ve seen on countless Republican faces over the past eight years.”