With Scott’s snub, Florida’s political boss DeSantis loses support within his own state party | Opinion

Less than a week before Gov. Ron DeSantis takes stage in his home state for the third presidential debate, he got a very public snub from his predecessor.

It’s no surprise that former governor and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott would endorse Donald Trump as he did in a Thursday column published by Newsweek. His rocky relationship with DeSantis, and longtime friendship with the former president, are well known.

If timing is everything, Scott’s seemed meant to signal to DeSantis that his own state party is taking his struggling presidential bid less seriously. Scott reversed his personal policy of not picking sides in Florida Republican primaries, the Herald reported.

“I know most of the candidates running for president, and I respect their decision to put themselves through this very difficult process,” Scott wrote. “Make no mistake: Every single one of them would be a better president than Joe Biden. But Republican voters are making their voices heard loud and clear. They want to return to the leadership of Donald Trump.”

DeSantis often compares his nearly 20-point reelection victory last year with Trump’s 3-point win in the Sunshine State in 2020. But polls show the governor not only losing to Trump nationwide but also by more than 30% in Florida, according to an average of polls by FiveThirtyEight.

Scott’s announcement took place two days before Trump and DeSantis are scheduled to speak at a GOP summit in Central Florida. On Wednesday, DeSantis will take stage at the presidential debate in Miami, where the stakes couldn’t be higher. His campaign has spent significant time and resources in Iowa, where the country’s first caucus happens in January, but a poll released this week shows him tied with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for second place and Trump far ahead in that state. In August, Haley was more than 10 points behind DeSantis, but her memorable performance and sharp one-liners on the debate stage seemed to have propelled her. DeSantis didn’t necessarily perform poorly in the first two debates — and he did considerably better in the second one — but he didn’t beat back the narrative that he’s a contrived candidate.

Even if DeSantis or other candidates were the second coming of Ronald Reagan, they still wouldn’t make much of a dent in Trump’s support among GOP voters. The former president has been indicted four times only to see his popularity soar.

What’s more telling is that DeSantis hasn’t even been able to secure a solid second place. His signature attacks on “woke” culture, his appeal to the far-right with a promise to “start slitting throats” in federal bureaucracy and his “Florida Blueprint” message haven’t moved the needle. If polls are correct, DeSantis has failed at uniting never-Trumpers behind him while peeling off few of Trump’s supporters.

Last week, a former DeSantis ally, state Rep. Randy Fine, announced he would switch his support to Trump. The only Jewish Republican in the Florida Legislature contends that DeSantis hasn’t done enough to fight antisemitism in his state.

With Trump looking more inevitable, will more Florida Republicans jump ship? That question was almost unimaginable even less than a year ago, when DeSantis dominated virtually every corner of Florida politics. Now it is a serious consideration for his flailing presidential campaign to worry about.

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