Author Matt Dixon on the Florida men who would be president and why one is losing

NBC news reporter Matt Dixon
Matt Dixon is an NBC news reporter based in Tallahassee

A year ago, Ron DeSantis was flying high. Fresh off a 20-point reelection victory, he had become “America’s governor,” the one Republican most likely to beat Joe Biden. He was Trump without the baggage.

Today Desantis starts 2024 well behind in the polls and is unlikely to fare better than third place in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. What happened?

To author Matt Dixon, an NBC reporter who has covered Florida politics for a decade, it’s partly campaign missteps that DeSantis won’t acknowledge and personality flaws that have been difficult to overcome, but it’s mostly because Donald Trump has turned four indictments into campaign fodder that allowed him to regain control of the GOP nationally and in Florida, where DeSantis is ostensibly the leader of the state party.

“He may not have run the perfect presidential campaign….but also Trump’s grip on the Republican Party….is still very, very strong,” Dixon said Tuesday on WMNF WaveMakers with Janet & Tom. “We’re beginning to realize that no matter what he did….this was still a Trump election cycle, still a Trump moment.”

Dixon appeared on WaveMakers one week from the release of his first book, “Swamp Monsters: Trump vs. Desantis–The Greatest Show on Earth or at least in Florida.” The book recounts the transformation of Florida from the swingiest swing state to a solidly Republican stronghold. DeSantis played big roles in that transformation, including big gains in Republican party registrations which now outnumber Democrats.

It now seems almost impossible for DeSantis to defeat Trump and his future is murky, Dixon said. DeSantis got virtually everything he wanted from a compliant Florida Legislature last year and, Dixon said, that might continue during the 60-day regular session that begins next week. Legislative leaders remain committed to DeSantis, but if he loses to Trump in the presidential primary contest his grip on the Legislature may begin to loosen next year, Dixon said.

But DeSantis is still young and could run in the 2028 presidential contests. Four years is a long time to reinvent yourself, Dixon pointed out.

Hear the entire conversation by clicking the link below, going to the WaveMakers archives or by searching for WMNF WaveMakers wherever you listen to podcasts.


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