Bob Sikorsky, a 57-year-old business owner in Portage Lakes, Ohio, appreciates the policy moves of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and stands ready to support him in the presidential primary. But longtime Republican voters have warned that there is one sure way to alienate former President Donald J. Trump by criticizing him directly.
After seeing DeSantis speak at an event in Akron on Thursday, Sikorsky said, “That’s really bad for the party and for the country, and I would be absolutely reluctant.” Told.
Most candidates spend their time worrying about what voters think of them. For DeSantis, the main issue with his presidential prospects has nothing to do with him. Instead, what do voters think of Trump?
Support for Mr. DeSantis is broadly divided between those who have a favorable opinion of Mr. Trump and those who do not, according to an analysis of a new poll conducted by Monmouth College in the New York Times. In the more crowded field of presidential candidates, the same polls show the governor of Florida is almost completely losing out to Trump because of the “Never Trumpers” who say they endorse other candidates. I’m here.
“Voters who favor Trump make up at least half of DeSantis’ current support,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Poll Research Institute. I have.”
The poll, which ran March 16-20, concluded 10 days before a Manhattan grand jury indicted Trump in a case involving hush money payments to a porn actress. It suggests that Trump continues to extend his lead over DeSantis.
Governor Ron DeSantis and his administration
Florida’s Republican governor turned the battleground state into a right-wing institute by leaning into the cultural warfare.
As Mr. DeSantis prepared for the presidential election, he had to decide how to convince Republicans to leave Mr. Trump and support him. DeSantis has largely avoided attacking Trump, but if he does, it could alienate supporters who still hold the former president in high regard. But if he campaigns as a successor to the cloak of Trumpism, he risks repelling a fifth of Republicans who say they don’t like Trump.
The Governor of Florida’s political two-step choreography colors every speech he makes and every bill he signs.
on thursday Florida Legislature Approves Bill It would ban abortions in the state after six weeks of gestation, and later that evening Mr. DeSantis said: twitter He signed the bill into law. His support for the bill reflects a broader political strategy to fight Mr. Trump for control of the party’s right wing. Reluctance to be complicit in strict anti-abortion measures Although alienating some moderate voters in his party, his support for the Florida law will please the party’s leading anti-abortion activists.
A spokeswoman for Mr. DeSantis did not respond to a request for comment.
According to interviews with Republican voters at DeSantis events in three states last month, they said they wanted more from the governor of Florida about who he is and what he does in office. It shows that you want to hear. Party. DeSantis has not formally announced a presidential run, but he plans to do so after the state legislature finishes next month. He has traveled around the country to speak at Republican events and book tours.
At a book promotion on Long Island, New York last month, 70-year-old Anthony Falbo said he was not interested in Trump’s third presidential run. Nor did Farbo want the governor of Florida to launch an aggressive campaign against the former president, despite his interest in DeSantis.
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“I avoid it,” said Falbo. “I think he needs to be stronger about what his message is.”
Mr. DeSantis’ initial strategy was to build his own base of support without mentioning Mr. Trump much.
On Friday, DeSantis will have a platform to reach out to evangelical voters, a bloc of influential Republican primary voters. He will be graduating at Liberty University, a Virginia school founded by popular televangelist Rev. Jerry Falwell, who died in 2007.
In Davenport, Iowa, electrician Mark Johnson, 65, revealed he was a Trump supporter interested in DeSantis, saying the governor has “common sense” and “doesn’t do anything crazy.” said. ”
Asked how Mr. DeSantis would gain support, Mr. Johnson said: “The best way is to ignore Mr. Trump.”
He added: I don’t want fakes, and I know who Trump is – he’s a screwball, but he has good policies.
Some DeSantis supporters have privately discussed the possibility of alienating Trump supporters who aren’t college graduates, and Mr. DeSantis said he could get along well with this group of voters. In a Monmouth poll, DeSantis was favored by 40% of Republicans with a high school diploma or less in a head-to-head run against Trump. He, 18% of those same respondents, said they didn’t know enough to know if they liked Mr. DeSantis.
DeSantis has trailed Trump by a wide margin in polls over the past few months, but remains the front-runner for the Republican nomination thanks to support from Republicans who favor Trump.
In a one-on-one showdown with Trump, DeSantis won with 76% of Republicans who hate the former president. But when the Florida governor presents additional rivals such as Trump’s vice president Mike Pence and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley as presidential candidates, he’s about one-third of those Republicans. lose.
Murray, the director of polling for Monmouth, said the Florida governor’s standing in the Trump campaign “is why Trump beats every candidate except DeSantis.”
“Some groups of Republicans think that DeSantis is a good successor to Trump, but they don’t feel that way about other candidates,” Murray said. “But that’s also what makes him difficult.”
Alice McFadden and Kim Lyons contributed to the report.
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