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DeSantis Is Looking a Lot Like the New Scott Walker 

DeSantis Is Looking a Lot Like the New Scott Walker 

As his campaign continues to fail to gain ground and donations are starting to dry up, many pundits on both the left and right are seeing Ron DeSantis as the next Scott Walker.

About nine months ago or so, DeSantis was regarded in GOP circles as a savvier, younger, and more electable version of former President Trump — in other words, Trump without the baggage. 

Now, DeSantis is more commonly typified as the “next Scott Walker,” the former Wisconsin governor who famously dropped out of the 2016 Republican presidential primary after being considered an early front-runner.

Indeed, a new poll in the all-important first primary state, Iowa, finds DeSantis trailing Trump by 30 points, with a mere 16 percent support to Trump’s 46 percent. Further, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) is gaining momentum on DeSantis, having eclipsed double-digits for the first time with 10 percent support, a sign that voters who seem to be looking for an alternative to Trump are now looking elsewhere than DeSantis. 

As DeSantis has struggled in the polls, mega-donors have grown skittish, and recent headlines highlighting internal campaign chaos have only added fuel to this dumpster fire. DeSantis’s campaign is reportedly short on cash, firing staff, shaking up key leadership positions, and failing to court small donors, indicating a lack of voter enthusiasm. 

This has prompted the campaign to embark on a “course correction.” According to reports, this will mean more retail politicking and fewer stump speeches, a focus on key issues nationally and in early primary states rather than on DeSantis’s record in Florida, and more access to the mainstream media, as opposed to only conservative outlets. The first signs of this strategic shift came last week when DeSantis sat down for a taped interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper and held intimate, pared-down events in Iowa and South Carolina. 

Too Little, Too Late

However, this reset is likely too little, too late. For one, DeSantis is not a retail politician by nature, having been described by his own donors and Republican insiders as “reserved and dry” as well as “arrogant” and “awkward.” And although his interview with Tapper marked a shift in earned media coverage, DeSantis largely voiced familiar talking points and likely didn’t persuade anyone — whether traditional Republicans or MAGA voters — to give him another look. 

Furthermore, the buzz surrounding the sit-down was overshadowed by Trump’s announcement that he is likely to face charges in the special counsel’s investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol. Trump stealing the spotlight last Tuesday was emblematic of how difficult it has been — and will continue to be — for DeSantis to overtake the former president, whose grip on the Republican base only grows stronger even as his legal troubles pile up.

DeSantis’s position in the race has never really gained any ground on Trump, and he has remained stagnant since he launched his campaign in mid-May. DeSantis’s poll numbers have actually dropped from where they were before he announced his campaign when at one time, they were inching towards 40%, but they have now dropped and remained around 20% nationally. Meanwhile, former President Trump’s poll numbers have continued to climb.  

The former president continues to find success in using his ongoing legal troubles to buttress his core positioning as a martyr of the conservative right — a dynamic that was only reinforced the day of DeSantis’s sit down with CNN’s Tapper. Tapper’s very first question was centered on the Trump case, which DeSantis responded to by claiming that the Biden administration is weaponizing the Department of Justice and FBI against political opponents while also saying he wants his party to move on from the 2020 election. 

At this point, given the headwinds DeSantis faces, most analysts agree that any pivot he tries to pull is ultimately meaningless and likely won’t be enough to prevent him from flaming out, just like Scott Walker.

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