Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has spent the past few months running to the right ahead of his expected entry into the 2024 Republican presidential primary campaign. From signing into law a six-week abortion ban to fighting with Disney, the governor has focused on satisfying his party’s conservative base.
So far at least, those efforts have not paid off in Republican primary polling, with DeSantis falling further behind the current front-runner, former President Donald Trump.
Things have gotten so bad for DeSantis that a recent Fox News poll shows him at 21% – comparable with the 19% that Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has pushed debunked conspiracy theories about vaccine safety, is receiving on the Democratic side.
DeSantis was at 28% in Fox’s February poll, 15 points behind Trump. The Florida governor’s support has dropped in the two Fox polls published since, and he now trails the former president by 32 points.
The Fox poll is not alone in showing DeSantis floundering. The latest average of national polls has him dropping from the low 30s into the low 20s.
This may not seem like a big deal, but early polling has long been an indicator of how well presidential candidates do in the primary the following year. Of all primary elections since 1972 without incumbents running, candidates at around 30% in early primary polls (like DeSantis was in February) have gone on to become their parties’ nominees about 40% of the time. Candidates polling the way DeSantis is now have gone on to win about 20% of the time.
I will, of course, point out that 20% is not nothing. DeSantis most certainly still has a chance of winning. The comparison with Kennedy is not a remark on Kennedy’s strength but on DeSantis’ weakness.
There is no historical example of an incumbent in President Joe Biden’s current position (over 60% in the latest Fox poll) losing a primary. At this point in 1995, Bill Clinton was polling roughly where Biden is now, and he had no problem winning the Democratic nomination the following year.
In that same campaign, Jesse Jackson was polling near 20% in a number of early surveys against Clinton. So what we’re seeing from Kennedy now is not, as of yet, a historical anomaly.
Sunday, April 30, 2023
If Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis's terrible little swamp kingdom antics are really meant as red meat for GOP presidential primary consumption, then he doesn't have many takers at his feast table. CNN's Harry Enten:
So no, the notion that the "moderate" Republicans are going to abandon Trump for DeSantis is foolishness. Yes, something may still happen to Trump, and DeSantis may benefit, but there's way too much baggage working against him.
No, he'll go back to making Florida an authoritarian state like Viktor Orban's Hungary.
In 2004, two men vanished in Collier County, Florida. One, Terrance Williams, was Black. Three months apart, Felipe Santos, was Latino. The last time either man had been seen was in the back of a patrol car with a white Sheriff's Deputy named Steven Calkins. Fifteen years later, CNN took a four-year investigation into these disappearances resulting in this week's Sunday Long Read.
“It is my belief that they were killed because of their color,” said Doug Molloy, who was an assistant US attorney in 2004 and led a multi-agency task force that investigated the disappearances as potential hate crimes.
Sheriff’s investigators surveyed the evidence and determined that Calkins was not telling the truth about his encounter with Terrance Williams. One investigator made a list of nearly two dozen untruthful or inconsistent statements that Calkins made about the day he met Williams. In August 2004, about seven months after Williams disappeared, then-Sheriff Don Hunter fired Calkins. As he later wrote, “I have lost trust in Calkins and his ability to describe incidents in detail and to recall them.”
Meanwhile, investigators got to work. They searched the woods and the waters near where the missing men were last seen. They put a tracking device on Calkins’ car. They did a complete forensic inspection of the car, paying special attention to the trunk. No trace of Santos or Williams turned up.
The FBI delivered a target letter to Calkins and asked him to answer questions from a federal grand jury about the disappearances. Calkins declined. And the investigators’ suspicions did not lead to probable cause. No one could prove these were hate crimes, or even crimes at all. Years passed, and the cases remained open, and both men’s children grew up without their fathers. Calkins repeatedly denied harming the men. He was never criminally charged.
Now 68 years old, Calkins was last known to be living in Iowa. Through his attorney, he declined multiple interview requests from CNN.
Marcia Williams kept a lock of her son’s hair, and a picture of him, wearing a navy blue T-shirt, looking at the camera, which made it seem as if Terrance were looking at her when she walked past. And across the Gulf of Mexico, in the state of Oaxaca, friends and relatives remembered Felipe Santos.
“He didn’t deserve to be disappeared in this way,” his friend Francisca Cortés told CNN. “It isn’t right that he hasn’t been found after so many years and we don’t know what happened to him. As his parents say, ‘If we find his remains, we can give him a Christian burial so we have somewhere to cry and pray for him.’ But in this case there isn’t anywhere. And there isn’t any way to do that. Everything is in limbo and we are never going to know what happened.”In 2019, a CNN reporter began a new inquiry into the disappearances of Felipe Santos and Terrance Williams. Eventually, two more reporters joined the project. Nearly 70 people were interviewed. The reporters filed dozens of open-records requests with government agencies, yielding more than 10,000 pages of documents and many hours of audio recordings.
Using phone records, dispatch logs and interview transcripts, CNN built minute-by-minute timelines of the days each man disappeared. CNN also obtained every available incident and arrest report from Calkins’s career with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, more than 2,000 reports from 1987 to 2004. This story is the result of CNN’s efforts to untangle one of the most disturbing unsolved mysteries in the recent history of American law enforcement.
This is a shocking story, even for a crooked cop true crime tale, and a reminder that American law enforcement has been corrupt, insular, and villainous for decades.