GOP political strategist Susan Del Percio said Ron DeSantis touting himself as an alternative to former President Donald Trump makes “no sense” amid speculation that the Florida governor could soon announce a 2024 presidential campaign.
DeSantis, who rose to national prominence over his embrace of right-wing culture war issues after winning the 2018 Florida gubernatorial race, is viewed by many as the Republican most likely to defeat Trump in the GOP primary election next year, though Trump remains the frontrunner. Some Republicans have said the Republican Party should move on from Trump after many of his endorsed candidates faltered during the 2022 midterms and have pointed to DeSantis as a potential alternative to move forward conservative policies.
However, not all Republicans view him as a strong general election candidate, despite polls suggesting he could beat President Joe Biden. GOP critics have warned that his stance on abortion, LGBTQ+ rights and other social issues could alienate swing voters in key battleground states.
Del Percio, during an appearance on MSNBC’s The Reid Out on Friday, cast doubt that DeSantis would be a strong candidate.
She ridiculed DeSantis’s campaign strategy, saying that he is not the strong alternative conservative to Trump many Republicans purport him to be. She also pointed to DeSantis’s “policy baggage” as well as polls that suggest he is unpopular among women voters.
“You look at independent women, and one of Ron DeSantis’s biggest things is, ‘I can win a general election,” she said while laughing. “Women in Florida hate him by 61 percent. I don’t understand. It makes no sense that he’s touting himself as an alternative to Donald Trump, when actually, his baggage is policy baggage, which is much more dangerous to carry around in the general election.”
She added that DeSantis “misunderstood” his 2022 victory, which saw him defeat former Florida Governor Charlie Crist by more than 19 percentage points. She said that his win does not indicate a mandate from Florida voters, but rather that Democrats did not turn out to vote.
“He really didn’t get what was driving people,” she said. “It was nothing. They didn’t show up. I mean, that was a big difference. 900,000 fewer votes cast on the Democratic line from 2018 to 2022. So people maybe didn’t come out against him, but they didn’t come out for him either.”
Newsweek reached out to DeSantis’s office for comment via email.
DeSantis has not yet formally announced a campaign, but his recent travels across the United States to promote his book—including to early-voting states like Iowa—has further fueled speculation that a presidential campaign is imminent.
Polling has long suggested DeSantis is the Republican with the greatest chance of beating Trump, but the former president’s lead has grown in recent months. A Harvard-Harris poll, that was taken between May 17 to 18 among 2,004 registered voters, found Trump leading by 42 points—more than double in a previous poll conducted in January.