Republicans like the hate DeSantis is selling. They just don't like him.
He's not tanking because of his extremism. On the contrary.
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The Republican primary campaign of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is already melting into a grease stain of incompetence. In February, DeSantis was only polling about two points behind former President Donald Trump. Since then, though, his standing has plummeted. According to 538's tracker, he's now at 18.8 percent, while Trump has surged to 52.3 percent — a 33.5 point gap. Donors have started looking for the exits; DeSantis had to cancel fundraisers last weekend because of a lack of interest.
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In a desperate effort to reset, the campaign announced this week that it would cut a third of its staff to try to sell itself to potential funders as a lean, scrappy, focused underdog effort. Its claims to renewed competence, however, were rather undermined by Nate Hochman, a communications staffer who promoted a video featuring Nazi imagery superimposed over DeSantis's face.
Hochman was quickly fired. But the Nazi imagery is not exactly a surprise. DeSantis is a virulently poisonous figure who has built his reputation in Florida on rabid hatred of LGBT people. He's done everything in his power to prevent students in the state from learning about Black history. He also transported immigrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard in an anti-immigrant publicity stunt which may have constituted illegal human trafficking.
It's tempting to believe that the embarrassing failures of DeSantis's campaign are the natural backlash to his bigotry, cruelty, and authoritarianism. Or, as one characteristic recent article put it, "Being an Unlikable Jerk Not Working Out So Well for Ron DeSantis." Book banning, human trafficking, slavery apology, Nazi memes: maybe DeSantis is too much of a fascist scumbag for even the GOP.
The truth though is less encouraging. DeSantis's struggles have less to do with the hate and authoritarianism than with the fact that he's running against the equally odious but inexplicably beloved Donald Trump. In fact, with Trump still firmly ensconced at the top of the field, it seems clear that "fascist scumbag" is the GOP's preferred brand.
The GOP has become thoroughly authoritarian
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