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Other Views: Florida’s DeSantis is beating Trump at his own game

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He’s younger, prettier and speaks in complete, comprehensible sentences. And he speaks directly to former President Donald Trump’s rock-solid base — which is showing a few cracks.

As reported by Politico, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis beat out Trump in a straw poll of attendees at last weekend’s Western Conservative Summit in Denver. Among the participants, 71% want our governor to run for president in 2024; Trump came in at an irritating 67% — irritating to Trump, at least. And Texas Sen. Ted “Have one door into and out of the school” Cruz? He lagged at 28% — somewhat of a relief to many, we guess.

Florida’s governor bested Trump at last year’s conference, too. Although straw polls are far from being a scientific or accurate measure of the overall electorate, they show that DeSantis’ support among core voters is growing.

DeSantis is Trump’s creation. The mentor remains a force in the Republican Party, anointing candidates for Congress and still bloviating, untruthfully, about his election loss in 2020. But DeSantis, the mentee, is doing in Florida what Trump could not, except through reversible executive orders. He is wielding direct power over policy, enshrining conservative values in the law.

DeSantis’ poll numbers clearly are the result of his carefully cultivated moves to gain the national stage. He deployed law enforcement from Florida to Texas to help stem the tide of migrants trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, then paid agents a photo-oppable visit. He reopened the state during the coronavirus pandemic earlier than blue states.

And though his covid policies put so many people in danger, he still looked like a boss. He didn’t pitch bleach as a possible cure to covid-19, he pitched personal freedoms and economic strength.

Last weekend’s straw poll results, according to Politico, follow the results of a University of Nevada, Reno, survey finding Florida’s governor neck-and-neck with Trump there.

Nevada voters were asked to rate potential 2024 candidates. DeSantis received the highest favorability score of any Republican with all voters — 48% compared to Trump’s 42% — but Trump beat DeSantis when just Republicans were counted.

That’s telling: DeSantis is catching the eye of independents and Democrats, too, boding better for him than for Trump in a general election.

DeSantis clearly is a player for a residence far grander than the Governor’s Mansion. Trump, indeed, has some competition.

— Miami Herald