Much to the chagrin of the anti-Trump faction of the right, Ron DeSantis — who was once billed as the successor to the MAGA throne — is not doing quite as well as many had hoped in the GOP primary.
As of August 8, according to RealClearPolitics, DeSantis is down to a 15.9% share of the GOP primary base after peaking at around 30% in January. The green line in the chart seemingly terminally in decline belongs to DeSantis.
— Tom Bevan (@TomBevanRCP) August 7, 2023
Now, DeSantis’ largest individual donor is threatening to cut the cash flow unless the candidate, in his words, “moderates” his message.
Via The Epoch Times (emphasis added):
Ron DeSantis’s biggest individual donor, hotel entrepreneur Robert Bigelow, warned that he will cut off donations if the Republican 2024 candidate doesn’t turn moderate.
“He does need to shift to get to moderates. He’ll lose if he doesn’t … Extremism isn’t going to get you elected,” Mr. Bigelow said during an interview with Reuters, adding that he had communicated these concerns to Mr. DeSantis’s campaign.
Mr. Bigelow, founder of Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace, donated $20 million to the pro-DeSantis “Never Back Down” super PAC in March, which makes him the biggest donor to the group. The second-biggest individual donor to Never Back Down is venture capitalist Douglas Leone, who gave $2 million, according to campaign filings—a tenth of what Mr. Bigelow contributed.
The problem here, among many, is that donor interests are not voter interests. By virtue of their vast wealth and oligarchical attitudes, donors like Bigelow are inherently disconnected from the actual voting base, a problem that won’t go away until elections are outright suspended altogether in favor of coronations.
Politicians, especially at the national level, are not permitted, in such cases that they depend on donor support, to espouse an economically populist message because large donors don’t like economic populism, which they perceive as a threat.
And so DeSantis, probably listening to bad advice from his own staff in addition to pressure from the donor class, seemingly decided some time back to make his campaign almost entirely about culture war wedge issues like so-called “trans” women playing in actual women’s sports, abortion, etc. This strategy hasn’t seemed to work.
This is not to say that culture war issues are not important or that voters don’t care about them, especially in a GOP primary, but these are not the kinds of sweeping, visionary policy proposals that are going to move voters out to the polls.
When Trump ran in 2016, he ran as the embodiment of a rebuke of the political establishment, which includes the donor class. He ran through donor-funded cutouts like Jeb Bush like a hot knife through butter because he was saying things that they weren’t allowed to say, like that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — a trade deal that would have handed more power to multinational corporations at the expense of the domestic economy — was a raw deal for American workers.
Were I advising DeSantis, I would suggest that this is the tact he should take if he hopes to turn his campaign around.