A politician without polling is like Maverick without Goose, or the Lone Ranger without Tonto, or Grizzly Adams without his big bear companion, Ben. Or like the Washington establishment media without its drive to twist, distort and misrepresent the truth.
All of these things, more or less, are famous partnerships. I wasn’t about to list Donald Trump without Mike Pence or Barack Obama without Joe Biden among them, or the analogy wouldn’t necessarily work. Trump certainly didn’t need Pence, though the vice president was apparently quite involved with the day-to-day policy making decisions of the Trump administration. Obama kept Biden around as window dressing for his never-ending quest to transform America, and the president needed an old-line Washington swamp dweller by his side to make himself look like something more than a former rabble-rousing community organizer without a credible political resume -- and to give the impression that he knew what he was doing.
A similar type of close relationship exists between today’s political class and the opinion-assessment industry. It was often said that, as president, Bill Clinton wouldn’t do anything -- at least related to public policy -- without first consulting his cadre of pollsters. The lip-biting, skirt chasing Arkansas sleazebag knew where his bread was ultimately buttered and he tried hard to sound as though he was “moderate” -- or even conservative -- to keep his approval ratings above water.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump was also keenly aware of polls and frequently cited them as “fake news” when there was an item he didn’t agree with. As a relentless TV cable news watcher, the numbers frustrated Trump. Indeed, as a conservative who supported Trump’s brand of populism, it was mystifying to me why more Americans didn’t get onboard with the Make America Great agenda, because there was nothing in it that wasn’t what Newt Gingrich would label a “60 percent” issue (or something that a strong majority of Americans backed, like stringent border enforcement).
The ruling class media and phony deep state “Russian collusion” witch hunt no doubt acted as a weight on Trump’s approval numbers much more than his sometimes untimely Tweets and confrontational personal nature. With well over 90 percent of the news stories covering Trump deriding him, it was an uphill climb for the New York outsider president to sell his proposals in a legitimate manner. The deck was always stacked against the man.
Having a politician pay attention to poll numbers isn’t always a bad thing. Our current Oval Office occupant, Joe Biden, apparently is briefed on them every day. Hence, the reason why he’s always in a foul mood! Senile Joe sees his own ratings as having sunk lower than Trump’s, a fact he has a hard time accepting. But then again, Biden’s lived inside the Washington bubble his entire professional life, so it’s no wonder he’s so tone deaf to the attitudes of the people.
With the elected representatives’ attention always on the next election -- and the fundraising that goes along with it -- to a politician, studying poll and focus group results is akin to religious study, as though there’s some secret hidden meaning buried in what group X or group Y believes is true regarding the topic du jour. Democrats seemingly care the most about the beauty contest, since their party is thrown together with ethnic coalitions and the ideologically driven crazies of “climate change” and abortion.
As addicted as most politicians are to polls, there’s one notable exception, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida. According to those around him, the Sunshine State chief executive disdains opinion surveys, instead being guided by the best interests of the people, which produces its own results. Rather than trusting some pollster to point him in the proper direction, DeSantis goes on instinct and the advice of smart people he surrounds himself with.
It's made a difference in his governing style. In a piece titled, “The Governing Style of Ron DeSantis: Create the Public Polling Results, Don't Follow Them”, Jeff Reynolds reported at PJ Media:
“Ron DeSantis, the Republican former congressman from Jacksonville, was elected governor of Florida in November 2018. Since his election, DeSantis has governed in a way unique in American politics. At 43, he is the nation’s youngest governor, which may help explain his willingness not to play things safe. He’s seemingly taken the old quote about football and war to heart: The best defense is a good offense. In choosing a proactive approach, DeSantis has avoided the unforced errors seen from many Republican elected officials, who would rather avoid controversy than lead on the issues important to voters...
“Christina Pushaw, the firebrand press secretary, gave several examples of DeSantis governing counter to what opinion polls say. His policy on COVID-19 led the list. ‘By Summer 2021,’ Pushaw said, ‘when he was preparing to issue an Executive Order to protect parents’ rights to choose whether their own kids wear masks to school, polling was published in Florida media indicating that the majority of Floridians supported school mask mandates.
“Governor DeSantis was aware of this polling, but it did not influence his decision, and he issued the EO to end forced-masking in July 2021 – before the school year began. While it was a controversial decision at the time, the governor’s reasoning was grounded in scientific evidence and his belief in parents’ rights. So, unsurprisingly, time has proven that he was correct. Now, the majority of Floridians agree that mask mandates are unnecessary and that children deserve a normal educational experience.’”
The DeSantis confidantes interviewed for Reynolds’ story indicated that the governor conducts no polling of his own, which must be highly unusual for a big state leader. Do you think that California’s Gavin Newsom or Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer act without first seeing whether their devious schemes have a modicum of public backing? Here’s thinking they have every leftist interest group on speed dial to consult before pulling the proverbial trigger. How’s that for a curious mental image?
To the objective observer, it almost looks as though DeSantis seeks out controversy in his daily governance, which is the polar opposite of what most politicians do. In this sense, Governor Ron is very much like Donald Trump. If there’s a topic on the public burner that draws attention, DeSantis chooses the traditional and popular route and lets the chips fall where they may, knowing all along that the majority of citizens don’t care about being “woke” and would much rather witness a return to America the way it was meant to be rather than bow to a bizarre cultural trend.
When, for example, the Walt Disney company caved to pressure from LGBTQ+ groups and opted to publicly oppose DeSantis’s and the Florida legislature’s mission to ban teaching inappropriate sexuality topics to third graders and younger, the governor must’ve recognized the stunt was a perfect situation to score points for the anti-woke side.
Everyone knows Disney is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) employers in Florida and the entertainment conglomerate must therefore have an oversized say in what goes on statewide. DeSantis likely figured there would be boycotts and various threats from leftists to take their mouse droppings and move to more fertile “woke” territory, but such intimidation wasn’t going anywhere.
Disney profits precisely because it’s biggest theme park operation, Disney World, dwarfs that of Disneyland in California or any of its international locations. What would the Disney “woke-sters” do, anyway, uproot from Florida and head to friendly blue states like Illinois or New Jersey? Good luck convincing people to visit during the winter months in those places. Almost always sunny -- and at least temperate -- Orlando is the place to be. DeSantis knew it and used Florida’s natural gifts as leverage.
If anything, Disney underestimated the governor’s resolve to side with parents and ride the anti-woke prevailing political winds that began blowing in the Virginia statewide elections last year. Because of DeSantis, the people won. No wonder he’s so popular and his fundraising is many times’ larger than his Democrat opponents’ this year.
Buoyed by a thorough knowledge of conservative principles, DeSantis possesses an uncanny ability to recognize a hot topic and seize the opportunity to set policy on the issue. He did it with COVID by opposing lockdowns, unmasking the children, opening up the state to tourism when others were still closed and, whenever possible, thumbing his nose at the media boo-birds criticizing his every move. He did it with Big Tech, establishing penalties for the “woke” suppressors of free speech. And recently, he took on the task of redistricting after the 2020 census, setting district boundaries that reflected common sense rather than race-based gerrymandering. DeSantis got his way and his state’s voters will have more competitive districts to turn out entrenched Democrats.
Now that is serving the people who voted for him.
All along, DeSantis hedged his bets on taking an aggressive approach towards enacting a conservative agenda that would pay off for him in political support -- and it has. Recent polls show him with a wide lead over any of his potential Democrat challengers in this year’s Florida gubernatorial election. Not bad for a guy who barely squeaked by in 2018, winning by less than a half percentage point.
The fact is, DeSantis doesn’t need polls. Unlike almost all other politicians, polls aren’t his partner. Ron’s simple but straightforward approach to governing laid the groundwork for popularity and success. The Florida governor still won’t talk about a potential 2024 run for president, but perhaps he should think about it.
One thing is for sure: DeSantis won’t be watching the polls to make a decision.
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