Maybe surprisingly, Mr. DeSantis truly fares finest amongst reasonable voters in Republican major polling. This most likely says extra about which Republicans are most skeptical about Mr. Trump than it does about Mr. DeSantis, nevertheless it nonetheless signifies that his conservative instincts routinely put him at odds together with his personal base.
In some circumstances, the strain between Mr. DeSantis and his base is unavoidable — and his reasonable supporters will typically lose. A politician can’t all the time please each constituency. Abortion, as an example, poses a authentic downside for Mr. DeSantis — and each Republican these days.
However Mr. DeSantis has not all the time appeared cognizant of the fragile balancing act forward of him and has dedicated errors because of this. His comparatively gentle place on Russia concerning Ukraine, as an example, ignored that the elite, hawkish, neoconservative proper not solely cares deeply about containing Russia however would additionally inevitably be a part of any profitable anti-Trump coalition. Mr. DeSantis doesn’t must be a neocon to carry this help towards Mr. Trump, nevertheless it does appear he must help defending Ukraine.
The second half is that the fights for “freedom” and towards “woke” haven’t been a glue that’s held his fractious coalition collectively. To this point this yr, he’s struggled to make the race about these points in any respect. As an alternative, abortion, entitlements, Russia and Mr. Trump have dominated the dialog.
Of all of the issues which have occurred to Mr. DeSantis to this point this yr, this could be probably the most troubling and telling. Tactical errors may be fastened, but when combating for “freedom” and towards “woke” isn’t a robust, organizing theme, then he’s not particularly completely different from some other Republican.
This won’t be totally Mr. DeSantis’s fault. The coronavirus pandemic is over — at the very least for political functions. The height of “woke” might need come and gone as effectively: The arc of latest left tradition fights appears to have bent right into a reactionary part through which debate facilities as a lot or extra on proposed Republican restrictions on books, drag reveals and A.P. historical past curriculums as on the most recent controversy concerning the excesses of the left. Mr. DeSantis’s renewal of a year-old battle towards Disney — the precise origins of which I think would stump even many common readers of this article — is a telling indicator that his marketing campaign towards “woke” is struggling for oxygen.
Similtaneously Mr. DeSantis’s new points have light, the previous points have come roaring again. The Supreme Courtroom and Vladimir Putin made certain of it. So did Mr. Trump, who attacked Mr. DeSantis for previous statements on reducing entitlements. And whereas all of those points make Mr. DeSantis weak in numerous methods, there are few alternatives to assault Mr. Trump as too woke.
The devolution of Mr. DeSantis, in different phrases, is partly resulting from forces past his management. But when “freedom” or “woke” just isn’t sufficient, he’ll most likely want a brand new set of points to unite open-to-anyone-but-Trump voters.