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Is Gov. DeSantis the X-Factor in Trump's 2020 Presidential Re-Election Bid?

April 9, 2019 - 12:45pm
Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis
Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis

We’re still months away from the start of hurricane season, but Gov. Ron DeSantis is already taking Florida by storm. A recent Mason-Dixon poll has the governor at a 62 percent approval rating, making him one of the most popular governors in the nation. 

DeSantis’ unexpected high approvals with Republicans/Democrats, men/women and Hispanics/African Americans raises the question of whether the governor has coattails for President Trump. The 2020 presidential election is not too far away and it’s hard to ignore a 62 percent approval rating in a battleground state that will likely determine the next president of the United States.  

The Influential asked Florida’s top politicos Roger Stone, Susie Wiles, DJ Johnson, Elnatan Rudolph and Steven Schale to weigh in on this potential beginning of a Red Wave in Florida.  

Each politico was asked to answer one question:  Does Gov. DeSantis’ 62 percent approval rating create electoral coattails for President Trump in Florida? 


Gov. DeSantis has provided a graphic example of how President Trump can score with traditional Democratic voter groups, win Florida and re-election. The governor’s leadership in ensuring broader access to medicinal marijuana, overwhelmingly approved by Florida voters, thanks to the bold initiative and courage of John Morgan, is a key factor in the governor’s popularity. 

The decision to abandon the obstructionism of Rick Scott and work with the Republicans in the Legislature to insure that millions of Floridians have access to medicine, far superior to opioids, shows the way forward for the president who supported the states’ rights to legalize medicinal marijuana in his 2016 campaign, can now remove cannabis from the schedule 1 listing of the DEA. I have urged him to put some muscle behind Sen. Cory Gardner’s bill to protect state legalized marijuana (which the president has already endorsed), support adequate funding for broader testing of the medical benefits of cannabis, and most importantly declare his intention to work with Democrats like Sen. Cory Booker and Republicans like Congressman Matt Gaetz for total federal legalization -- subject to regulation by the states.

These actions would make FLORIDA red in 2020. 

Roger Stone is a legend in the Political Consulting Community. As a Republican operative going back to the days of President Nixon, Roger counseled several presidents to include presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016. 


The beneficiaries of Gov. DeSantis' exceedingly strong start are, most importantly, the citizens of Florida.  His attention to the issues that matter most, his energy and commitment to making Florida better and his breath of focus have rightly earned him recognition as one of the nation's brightest stars. Clearly, as a Republican who proudly supports the many ways President Trump's policies benefit Floridians, Gov. DeSantis' leadership will stand the president's reelection effort in good stead as we approach 2020. 

A GOP governor who is popular with traditional and non-traditional demographic groups and a state that’s showing positive movement in so many ways bodes well for President Trump as we head into the next election cycle. I cannot think of ways the stars could be better aligned.

Susie Wiles is a veteran Florida operative who chaired the DeSantis campaign in 2018. Wiles was Donald Trump’s chief strategist in Florida during the 2016 presidential campaign, as well as Rick Scott’s campaign manager during his 2010 gubernatorial bid.  


Gov. DeSantis is proving that governing from a right-center perspective is popular with the majority of the state, and that generally transfers to the rest of the ticket. However, as we learned with Gov. Jeb Bush and his brother during the 2000 presidential campaign, popularity has limited transferability with the Independent voters in Florida at a presidential level. 

The president’s re-election campaign will certainly benefit from his alliance with the governor, just as the governor did famously from the president’s solid endorsement in the ’18 cycle. The next 12 months-plus will mark the impact of the transferability factor. 

David “DJ” Johnson is a former RPOF executive director and Republican political consultant.


Gov. DeSantis is off to a very strong start, and by all indications he will continue on this course. He is hitting all across the spectrum by playing to Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike. It certainly can’t hurt President Trump that the governor is strong and that the RPOF is working well. I don’t know that it will have coattails to the president. 

Elnatan “El” Rudolph is managing director of Converge GPS.


If you believe the past is prologue, DeSantis' early numbers really don’t mean anything. Since Florida became a battleground state in 1992, the party not holding the Governor’s Mansion has won 3 of the 7 contests: Bush '92 (Dem Gov), Obama 08/12 (GOP Gov), including '08 when the Republican governor had DeSantis-like numbers.

Furthermore, when it comes to Hispanics, we saw in '16 huge deltas between Rubio and Trump, showing Trump's performance really wasn’t impacted by a more popular Republican on the ballot -- so it’s even more unlikely they will be impacted by one off of them.

Where having the Governor's Office matters: The party in power typically can raise more for basic party infrastructure, and if DeSantis leans in for RPOF, it can help them get a head start on organizing.

But here’s the thing: It’s just gonna be close. Florida is just structurally very balanced right now, and there isn’t much that’s going to change that between now and November 2020. The last three governor races, and last two presidential races have all been decided by a point. It’s going to come down to who my party nominates, and whether Trump can find the discipline he found late in '16.  

Steven Schale is a Democratic strategist.


Floridians are not used to seeing such high approval numbers for governor in a very long time: Former Gov. Rick Scott rarely, if ever, approached 50 percent on a good poll. This, in part, has underwritten a majority consensus among Florida’s top politicos that Trump will benefit from Gov. DeSantis’ center-right governance.  

If this proves to be the case over the next 18 months, then President Trump’s endorsement of Gov. DeSantis will have paid dividends, not just for his re-election bid for president, but for the citizens of Florida.  


Patrick Slevin is a former Florida mayor. He is a two-time winner of the PRSA Silver Anvil Award of Excellence for Crisis & Issues Management. Influence magazine named Slevin one of the "Great Communicators." Slevin has been recognized by Campaigns & Elections magazine as one of the nation’s top political “Movers’ & Shakers".  He is head of Florida-based SL7 Consulting. 


Everyone I know is at least neutral, most pleasantly surprised, with our Governor. Will he benefit the President. Not much. The Governor is everything the President is not. Then again, for contrast. Watkins lost to Shoaf despite the attacks and Trump worship. Most Floridians want competency, not rhetoric. Granted, the Governor will no doubt back the President and it'll maybe help with the base. But, he'll risk himself if Trump fails. I hope the Governor continues to be a better than last Governor.

Joe Booth if Governor DeSantis truly desires to listen to the People we would see him push back against efforts to block ammendment 4 and would advocate for automatic voter registration of felons who have completed their sentences. Roger Stone are you paying attention? Who is changing the rules again?

I am all for Felons earning back the right to vote, but that would include completing ALL of their sentencing, which includes paying all of their fines, probation and restitution costs. If you don't do that, you would violate your probation and be sent back to jail. Why would we ever give them the right to vote automatically if they don't complete their sentence? Common sense Frank.

Ok Joe. Whenever someone exposes their being misinformed, I am always saddened. It's possible to complete a sentence and still owe money. If you didn't know that you should have learned the whole story first. More importantly, where in the US Constitution does it say a felon loses their Constitutional Rights for life? If you're not educated about it, try reading it. Florida is 1 of a handful of states that strips civil rights for life. And it goes back to Jim Crowe.

Dean, learn to read son, and it is you who needs the lesson for the uninformed. No one said it wasn't possible to owe money as a Felon. What I specifically talked about was the terms of probation and/or parole, which is, you must pay your fines, probation fees and restitution, or you will be violated and go back to jail. Automatic restoration does not take that into account, and clearly neither do you. We no longer have Felons stripped of their rights for life. This is merely a discussion on how it should be administered, and the argument is just to use common sense, which clearly you struggle with. Good luck kid.

I did read and comprehend. You implied that nobody could owe money and have completed their sentence. Happens all the time. You stated "We no longer have felons stripped for life". That's false. What about those left out of A4? Most important. No citizen should ever have their Constitutional Rights infringed. Allowing government to make exceptions means you and your rights may be next. Finally, I'm not your son. Alt, you did manage to remind me just how arrogant and condescending he could be.

For the most part, he has listened to the wishes of the people, regardless of party. He has not blamed others for the problems of the this state AKA Rick Scott, he just said he is going to fix them, and he has set out to do exactly that. He is the antithesis of Trump. He is trying to satisfy the wishes of the people and is taking action on things popular with all voters...

Waddaya expect? A lickspittle is a lickspittle!

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