As my colleague Josh Marshall notes below, today’s Times/Siena Poll gives us the clearest sign yet that, if you’re a Republican candidate and you’re not named Donald Trump, your grip on the Republican Party and the minds and hearts of GOP voters is tenuous at best and barely existent at worst.
Among the likely Republican primary voters surveyed, a whopping 54 percent said they’d vote for Trump if the election were today. His once half-serious opponent Ron DeSantis came in second in the poll, with only 17 percent of those surveyed saying they would vote for him if the primaries were today. Others like Mike Pence and Nikki Haley barely eked out support from 3 percent of respondents. It’s a wide and bleak gap.
DeSantis’ campaign has been trying to do a reset of sorts for weeks as he runs out of money and flails in the polls, experimenting with all different kinds of bizarre messaging tactics like going after Black Republicans. Allies in Congress suggest that maybe if he could just get a casual indictment filed against him, he would see a boost in the polls.
In his flailing, DeSantis recently grasped ahold of an issue that has been especially tricky for the GOP since 2022: abortion. It’s not entirely clear who DeSantis is trying to appeal to or what he’s after with his latest remarks on the topic, but the comments show that the party’s squirming on the issue remains A Thing. It could be a sign that he’s trying to scoop up some would-be Trump supporters who don’t quite know where the former president stands on a national ban, as he continually refuses to give a clear answer to the question.
During a recent interview with Megyn Kelly, DeSantis said that abortion policy is best decided by states, arguing that he has no confidence that Congress could actually do “anything meaningful” on the issue.
“I’ve been a pro-life governor,” he said. “I’ll be a pro-life president and I’ll come down on the side of life.”
“I really believe now in our society it’s really a bottom-up movement, and that’s where we’ve had most success. — Iowa, South Carolina, Florida — and I think you’re going to continue to see a lot of good battles there,” he continued, adding that he would “be a leader with the bully pulpit to help local communities and states advance the cause of life.”
He had, however, stepped into a now-familiar trap. His comment was a dealbreaker for anti-abortion groups like the Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America organization that hold considerable weight among those single issue Republican voters. The group immediately came out against the Florida governor, calling his position “unacceptable.”
It’s reflective of what all Republicans are struggling to articulate on the issue. We’ve noted this a bunch in the past year, but the energizing power of abortion has freaked Republicans out for months as any race that has put abortion front-and-center since Roe’s overturning has gone in those candidates’ favor. Nearly every 2024 contender has waffled with the line walking, endorsing anti-abortion policy while trying to avoid saying anything specific publicly about where they stand on the most extreme policies, like a national 15-week ban.
The desperate DeSantis — who has barely acknowledged the six-week ban that his state made law this year — may have calculated that he could slice out a new path for himself among MAGA voters if he came down in a less extreme place on the campaign trail.
The Best Of TPM Today
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