Has the DeSantis Campaign Found the Culture War’s Ceiling?

A lot of political hay has been made of an online video posted to the “DeSantis War Room” Twitter account since it debuted at the end of June. It received a fair bit of negative feedback from fellow Republicans, and it’s been a source of constant complaints from people who were already anti-DeSantis.

Making and dropping the video was a silly decision, as it does needlessly alienate people, but ultimately it’s such an Extremely Online issue that I don’t see it really making much of a difference except in different circles of Twitter users and among the media circles – but almost every complaint is ultimately coming from people who weren’t for Ron DeSantis already or people who are likely to forget by the first primary – if they haven’t forgotten about it already.

But the larger problem for the DeSantis team could very well be that the LGBT and culture war stuff may have done all it can do, as far as his numbers go. In virtually every poll, DeSantis is stuck between 20-25 percent in the Republican Primary, and there’s no real sense in the publicly-available data that he’s gaining momentum. If anything, he appears stagnant and almost rudderless, falling back on the stuff that played well during his re-election campaign and the opening days of the presidential bid.

AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

And, yes, part of the problem is that former president Donald Trump still has a very commanding hold on the Republican base, but there is still room for growth, as indicated by the number of undecideds in most polling – on average, well into the double digits.

But the DeSantis campaign has been focused on two things: His fight against the wokes and his tremendous re-election effort in Florida. And, yes, both are commendable and they are clear signs that he’s got his sights set on things primary voters care about. The problem is that those aren’t the only things voters care about.

Florida is a unique state in many ways, and you’re not going to convince everyone that every state should be more like Florida. Some folks don’t want to be like Florida, and the culture war doesn’t put food on the table when inflation is still running hot, wages aren’t keeping up with it, and there is still talk of a looming recession.

Most Americans are worried about those kitchen table issues and more. DeSantis is in some ways on the right track, like when he shifted some of his rhetoric toward the border. An NBC poll recently showed that voters – especially Republican voters – are very worried about the southern border, particularly when it comes to fentanyl. That crisis has many Americans worried. Many American families are, at best, a few degrees removed from someone who has overdosed on the drug.

Now, DeSantis is by no means out of the race. On the contrary, he’s sitting on an insane amount of cash and he’s continuing to fundraise very well. But his poll numbers can’t grow unless he starts pulling more voters in. That will mean diversifying his platform a bit and really nailing those kitchen table issues and talking about what his plans can do for voters’ families (and pocketbooks).

If he can do that, then those numbers start moving upward again. But what he’s doing now simply ain’t it.

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