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Do Republicans think DeSantis can beat Trump in the GOP primary?

May 2


Donald Trump may be the current front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, but the former president has plenty of competition. The GOP primary field includes Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence and his former U.N. ambassador (and ex-South Carolina governor) Nikki Haley. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hasn’t officially entered the race but is expected to do so once the Florida legislature passes an amendment allowing him to run without resigning from office. And while criticizing President Biden is part of each contender’s platform, the GOP candidates are also taking shots at each other as they try to gain an edge.

The race for the Republican nomination is the focus of the latest episode of Straight Arrow News’ America Speaks video series, hosted by veteran political analyst and pollster Dr. Frank Luntz. In this 23-minute video, U.S. voters share their thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of DeSantis, Haley and Pence in comparison to former President Trump.


It was former President Ronald Reagan who coined what he called “The 11th Command

ment” … thou shall not criticize another Republican.  

That came to an abrupt end in 2015 with the campaign of Donald Trump.  And now, eight years later, we are witness to some of the most ferocious rhetoric by Republicans … against Republicans.  

Trump isn’t the only Republican seeking the presidency in 2016.  Former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley have either announced or are putting together campaign teams in anticipation of a presidential run. 

The political jockeying is serious.  The name calling has already begun.

When will it end?  Where will it end?  

And most importantly, who is likely to be left standing to the Republican Party into the next election.  

So for the next 30 minutes, I’ll be asking the questions about DeSantis, Pence and Haley, the questions you want asked, and you, the American people, will have the floor.  

I’m Dr. Frank Luntz, and welcome to … American Speaks.

This week: a closer look at what Republican voters really think about Washington, their future, and the future of the Republican Party. 

So let’s listen in on our nationwide conversation.



[TEXT: What is your opinion of Washington right now?]



Dr. Frank Luntz

I’d like to know one word or phrase to describe how you feel about the federal government in Washington DC. If someone asks you describe it in a single word or phrase, what would you say? Donald, we’ll start with you.

Melody from Washington

The deep state. David from South Carolina, wrote Alexandria from Texas. unreliable. Kathy from Texas, a failure. Shawn from Florida. Hitler, all the bad


communist leaders in the world, including Hitler had their political opponents arrested.

Melody from Washington

John from Nevada unsustainable. Elizabeth from South Carolina, tyrannical. David from Colorado. corrupt and sorry, I forgot. Corrupted I forgot that’s the best response so far. On that broken. John from Iowa, corrupt. Suzanne from Louisiana, authoritarian Sam from some North Carolina, tyrannical. Joseph in Florida, inept Illinois, very weak. And Melanie from Washington failing. Okay, this is a really, really, really bad evaluation. Why is it so bad? Why is Washington failed so much? Because he admitted,


because the administrative state is out of control, they can do what they want, and there’s no boundaries on them.


We went from having healing in this country, under Trump to having our choice taken away from us, and then handed higher costs, more moral ineptitude and overall lack of

Melody from Washington



Democrats say they’re all for the people, but they’re not. They’re all for themselves. And that’s what’s happened. They don’t listen to people. They don’t care about us. It’s all about themselves and building up their government. And,


and it’s not just a lack. It’s not just the Democrats across the board just about in Washington, DC, in Congress, and in the judicial branch and the legislative branch. There’s a little serious lack of leadership.


You have to think about how many of our freedoms were stolen were taken by the government with mandates, the lock downs and how few have been returned. The businesses destroyed the children’s education destroyed and then acting like we should be grateful to get that back


to them. And how much of that turned out to be an outright lie?


Yeah, that’s right. They will admit that it was a lie and they won’t admit it.


[TEXT: What do you think of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis?]



Melody from Washington

Alfred. courageous and very interesting. Joseph, presidential, Sam, ready and capable. Suzanne, now that when he’s a fighter, John from Ohio,


he’s a leader. But the question is can you hold up to Trump and what’s gonna happen on that debate stage?

Melody from Washington

Will a full like Jeb Bush or you know, the old no zone? Sean from Nevada?


Definitely a leader. He is what Trump is


not in my opinion. David from

Melody from Washington



he’d be fine as a candidate but I want him to wait until 28.

Melody from Washington

John from Nevada, he’s a leader. Just don’t think he’s ready yet for it. Sean from Florida. Great for Florida


you sure that’s only coffee you’re drinking.

Melody from Washington

Electrolyte water. Gonna move on unless you answer. Cassie answer she’s a she’s an avatar now.

Melody from Washington

Alexandra, are so easy and polished. Elizabeth is strong. He’s courageous. He’s conservative. He’s electable. David from South Carolina. Impressive and electable. Donna.


Everybody’s taken my adjectives. He’s got you. He’s got electability. He’s poised. He doesn’t have any of the baggage that Trump has. I just think that it’s a ppms. pale, stale and male and DeSantis is not he’s young and refreshing.

Melody from Washington

Reaction people. I agree. Yeah. I like that last part. Yeah, I think


he still has DeSantis still has work to do in Florida and my opinion. So we’ll let Trump go and do the change that he’s effective at doing. And then DeSantis can come in later.


I think Ron DeSantis is a breath of fresh air. I think he can change things for good. He can make the climate feel we can he can make us all feel better about our country. He can build us back up. We don’t need a person in there that is going to just I don’t know, I like Trump as a businessman, but I feel like he wasn’t a really good he’s not a great person. And so that’s what we need is somebody that’s a good person that can build us back up.


I think that Americans are I think they’re done voting for Bush’s Clinton’s Biden’s Trump’s I think it’s I think it’s it’s got to be a fresh start.


I will say DeSantis is the safe option. If he gets to the general election. I think he wins easily. I think Trump is more of a coin toss would have no problem in the general election he would do to the country what

Melody from Washington

he did to Florida.


He was the he was the red wave. There at the midterms. We didn’t have a red wave which baffled me, and yet we’re


going to be Yep, the Santas would shake up the reds, the administrative state, which is the number one thing that we need to do is to shake that up and rework it and figure out what’s wrong.


I’m not sure DeSantis is ready for primetime yet we’ll find out. He hasn’t really been tested. He could be another Rubio. You know, Ted Cruz, there’s a lot of potential, Chris Christie, a lot of them and they just fell apart. And what’s gonna happen on that debate stage, can you hold yourself to Trump? Can he you know, how can he articulate himself? Does he look awkward? Because I’ve seen him a couple times and debates in Florida where he looked a little awkward on stage and you can’t really have that awkward look. It just, you know, we’ll find out. We’ll find out soon enough, I guess.


And I guess the biggest thing for me is when it comes to the debates, will trump reserve against the standards or will he just start swinging? Because they’re swinging against


me choice and


because if he started swinging, how would the status respond because it could because like a lot of people on this panel wants him to be you know, cool, calm, collected presidential professional, but everyone likes to rebel rouser and if if if the science is not coming with the heat, a lot of people a personality Good morning, they still might go for you know, you know, Trump. I mean, we’re on the brink of a lot of egos up


there. Well.


Alfred, you’re you’re I think you’re touched on the exact problem DeSantis is going to have, you know, Trump’s gonna come out swinging. How is he going to still look somewhat statesman, like, above the fray just like he’s trying to do now not responsive for tat on everything going on that Trump’s already throwing at him. How is he going to handle that on the debate stage is going to be the big question mark. And is Trump gonna go out him so hard trying to frazzling that he’s just gonna look worse than he already does? That’s the question.





We We have embraced freedom. We have maintained law and order we have protected the rights of parents. We have respected our taxpayers and we reject woke ideology we fight the woke in the legislature, we fight the woke in the schools, we fake the woke in the corporations, we will never ever surrender to the woke mob. Florida is where Whoa, goes to die.


Oh, great tagline


I live in. I live in an amazing state governor, and he just does not need to leave the state


one time, one at a time. Shawn, shut down the state and he’s just lied to everybody. But he gende him up. And I was like a great politician. You


gotta love it. No,


I did everything that he said there. And having Casey stand next to him was amazing as well. It was it really shows well, but he’s done everything that he said that he just did just Just then he is less effective and other areas that are more important to me, like the life issues. But he has done great things in this state.


And I think that’s our drive on the debate stage is even if Trump comes at him and swings on him, he can point back to his policies and what he’s done in the state of Florida and shown that he’s been effective and helped as well take over the school board in Florida by endorsing certain candidates and taking back the Florida School Board System. So I think for him on that debate stage that all that’s all he really has to do is point to those policies and show that he’s been an effective leader in the state of Florida.


Oh, he’s a fighter, and he will dress down a stupid question from a reporter in New York minute or a Florida. He’s a fighter. Well, Suzanne and John. Well,


I love Ron DeSantis. I really do. I’m in I’m in Louisiana and trying to figure out how to get to Florida


where I live way, but no, I think I think he has everything that Trump is without the showmanship. I just I just think that he’s just not ready right now. I think that if, if, if we can get Trump in one more, and I know everybody’s gonna go. But if we could just have him want four more years, and then let the scientists come in afterwards. And then eight years of DeSantis I mean, our country would be running phenomenal. But if Trump doesn’t get in out, I would vote for DeSantis in a heartbeat. John, Elizabeth


Kelly, Kathy, tell me your reaction. Trump’s disdain as a strong leader. He’s doing great things in Florida. But he’s more of a politician. Trump’s not a politician. And that’s where the catch is. Chuck don’t care. He’s troubled take on Nancy Pelosi, you go blow to blow whether we’re DeSantis. It might not like you know, like a normal politician. Just the Republicans tend to sit back and not do anything. They take punches on the Democrats. Trump punches back and the Democrats hate that. That’s one of the reasons they hate him because he’ll hit back harder and harder and harder, and they’re not used to it and they can’t take it and they don’t know what to do. And it’s now they’re doing what to do in the Trump. And that’s what you want. That’s right. Yes. A fighter do.


I think Trump is a politician. Now, you can’t say Trump’s not a politician. He’s the ultimate politician right now. And DeSantis and people say he’s not ready. They said that about JFK. JFK was young DeSantis is ready to Santos flipped a state. DeSantis is not afraid to fight back against Fauci. He fights back at press conferences. He’s not afraid to Trump. He just he blows off his comments makes jokes about him. He’s cool about it. He doesn’t take the bait. He’s not a bully. He focuses on policy. He focuses on his strength. He’s very presidential. I think it’d be amazing

[TEXT: What do you think of former Vice President Mike Pence?]




Dr. Frank Luntz

Give me a word or phrase. Alexandra. I’m gonna start with you with a phrase to describe mike pence.

Melody from Washington

Ah, cautious, diplomatic. Elizabeth is ethical and he’s a constitutionalist from South Carolina, golden retriever, Donna think.


I think he’s a good man.

Melody from Washington

He’s trustworthy. But I wouldn’t vote for him. Sean from the data. Good man, but boring. And I wouldn’t vote for him. David from Colorado, ethical to be sure, but I hate to say it clueless. John from Nevada opportunities. Shawn from Florida.


whitewashed bones and dry.

Melody from Washington

Kathy, nice guy, but not who I’m looking for. Alfred, man, but a flip flopper. From Florida.


I think he has a good moral compass.

Dr. Frank Luntz

Sean, sorry, Sam from North Carolina.

Melody from Washington

Phenomenal man of faith who would be an amazing leader for our country at this time. Suzanne, disappointing. John, from Iowa, to religious

Dr. Frank Luntz

melody, it turns people just

Melody from Washington

wow. Okay.


I’m honorable, trustworthy. And I like the religious part.

Dr. Frank Luntz

It’s interesting, because number of you went straight forward. What are you doing? Go back? We asked this question. A number of you said something positive. And then the word bought. And I’m not used to hearing that. Why did you do that? Something ethical, honest, integrity, something positive. And then uh, but why?

It’s a natural thing to do when you I mean, he’s, he’s, he scores 100% on the likability scale. So you want to kind of temper your criticism. I


think it’s, that’s human nature. Well, and we’re here talking about presidential election and see he’s unelectable.

Melody from Washington

Yep. He’s a big cold bowl of oatmeal.


Yep. He’s an incrementalist. And you’re used going against someone who is there is no incremental ism. We’re going to make change. Yep. So there’s a brash difference between the two,


which is the reason he was he was nominated as a vice president, by the way.


Yeah, I think he’s terrible to Mitt Romney in 2012. Right now.


Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah.


Like a bull in the china store. Trump is just radical in key, he does what he says in, he just has his strong opinions. And pence doesn’t have that.


See, what got me is after they certified the election, when Nancy Pelosi came up to pins, they both elbowed each other. And I just thought, golly, you know, after all, she’s done to them, how he could even even be friendly, and do that little elbow bump. And I was just I was done. I was like,


That was a mistake. I was a mistake, for sure. That was


I was done. I liked him. And but that No,

Melody from Washington

I just I appreciate


the fact that he is a strong Christian man, but I don’t think he has a boldness he needs to be exactly right. That’s the only video.


Hey, we might Christianity is the most important thing in my life. I try and start every day by opening the good book. My wife and I try and have a prayer together before I leave every morning. I can honestly tell you, my faith sustains me. And all that I do. And it’s just a regular part of our lives. But I’m not unusual. I think I’m a very typical American, whatever your faith tradition, people understand that. But I just think it demonstrates how out of touch some of the mainstream media are with

Dr. Frank Luntz

the action people, amen.

Melody from Washington

It’s true.


into our country, and God is not in our country. And if we bring him back in our country, things will get better.


100% true, but that’s a cure for insomnia. I’m sorry, guys.


What does that have to do with the price of admission and of munitions in Ukraine? That’s what I I mean, it’s all great to hear, but nothing,


just stylistically. He’s just so milquetoast.

Melody from Washington  04:51

Yeah, I mean, I


mean, comes from central casting, like Trump said, Well, how are you selected him? He looks like he’s he plays the role. He’s, he looks the part But he comes across when he talks about you know, there’s nothing wrong with being Christian and having believed that believing God but there’s a lot of people don’t want to hear it. I mean, they don’t want to be preached to like a preacher. They don’t want the politicians preaching to him and said turn off half half the half the electorate, if not more than that. It’s just gonna do


about a role if you are looking for someone to play president on TV or in a movie, Mike Pence would be it. But you know, this is real life.


[TEXT: What do you think of former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley?]



Donald give me a word or phrase to describe Nikki Haley. I like Nikki Haley. I don’t think that she’s electable.

Melody from Washington

I don’t I don’t. I don’t have a lot. I like her. I like her, but I’m not. She’s not gonna get my vote. David from South Carolina word or phrase to describe Nikki Haley. likable but flip flops too much. Sean from Nevada, again, likable but irrelevant on the national stage. She was great for her state. David from Colorado, you know, irrelevant on the national stage. I’m I’m Trump only. Elizabeth from South Carolina. I liked her as our governor. I think we can do much better as the president for President. John from Nevada. likable but seems like an insider. Yes, Florida. compromised. Kathy from Texas. I think she’s a sharp cookie. Very brilliant. John from Iowa.


She’s smart. Did a good job at the UN but she’s a typical Washington politician. She comes across that way. And I mean, this is like a workout.


Insider. I think she’s just part of the establishment. I think she’s really smart. But I just don’t think she’s electable. Sam. She’s lived the American minority a dream in America.


She’s ready to be a unifier for the country. And

Melody from Washington

she’s got the ability to do it. Now Liddy. Reliable, not ready. Joseph. I think she’s a strong female leader but I don’t think she’s electable. Alexandria, sleepy politician. Alford not making the cut not enough support.


Some people look at America and see vulnerability. The Socialist left sees an opportunity to rewrite history. China and Russia are on the march. They all think we can be bullied, kicked around. You should know this about me. I don’t put up with bullies. And when you kick back, it hurts them more. If you’re wearing heels. I’m Nikki Haley, and I’m running for president.


In Europe, I’m not buying that she doesn’t put up with bullies. The heels line was great, but beyond that, Oh, hmm.


Yeah, I think heels line is probably so far the best catchphrase of any contender so far. But outside of that she’s not really bringing much to the table.


No, exactly like to phrase. Go ahead, Alfred. I was gonna say not only is that for a person, especially Illinois, who’s who knows very little barn obscurity. I think she should have campaigned a year ago. Because right now I feel like it’s too late. Not enough eyes on her not enough support.


And there you have it.  Republicans already afraid that the jockeying in 2023 will have a negative impact on 2024.  

A desire to maintain the successes of the Trump Administration but with a less confrontational narrative.      

And a willingness to embrace a candidacy other than Donald Trump.  

Next week, we’ll do exact the same for Democrats.  We’ll hear what matters most to them, their evaluation of the last two years, and whether they want a second Biden presidency.  

We’re glad you took the time to listen to and learn from your fellow Americans.  

From America Speaks, I’m Dr. Frank Luntz.  Thank you, and good day.


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