When Gov. Ron DeSantis told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson he didn’t believe “becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia” was in America’s vital national interests, pundits declared it an unforced error. Conservative media outlets called it a “mistake,” and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu blasted his Florida counterpart, suggesting he has “lost his moral compass.”
Perhaps. But whatever DeSantis is using appears to have led him to the mainstream of the New Hampshire GOP.
The latest Granite State Poll, a States of Opinion Project conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, found most New Hampshire voters either believe the U.S. is providing “too little” (22 percent) or “about the right amount” (45 percent) of aid to Ukraine. However, nearly 40 percent of Republicans believe the U.S. is doing “too much.” Just 14 percent of New Hampshire GOP voters agree with Republican candidates who say America should be doing more.
And Granite Staters who say the U.S. is doing too much overwhelmingly say they want that number to come down to zero. When those respondents were asked if America should be helping Ukraine at all, 77 percent of those Republicans said no. Among undeclared voters in the “too much” camp, 72 percent oppose any and all aid.
Overall, 40 percent of Republicans think the U.S. is providing the right amount of aid, 9 percent think the U.S. should provide less aid, and 30 percent think the U.S. shouldn’t be providing any aid to Ukraine at all,” said Sean McKinley, project director at UNH Survey Center.
Which is another way of noting that if political candidates like DeSantis are trying to line up with the voters, being enthusiastic about U.S. aid to Kyiv is probably the wrong place to be.
As The Washington Post reports, “In recent surveys by the Council on Foreign Relations, only 31 percent of European respondents indicated that their respective governments spent ‘too much’ on foreign aid. But nearly twice that percentage (59 percent) of Americans surveyed gave the same answer.”
The UNH Survey also found 71 percent of Granite Staters named China as the nation’s greatest threat, with just 17 percent picking Putin’s Russia. Meanwhile, their view of Biden’s handling of the Russia-Ukraine conflict has steadily risen over the past year to 61 percent approve, 37 percent disapprove.
However, just 33 percent of self-identified Republicans like how he is handling Ukraine.
Overall, Biden is underwater with Granite State voters. While 46 percent approve of his job performance, 53 percent disapprove, which is actually one of his best performances since Putin invaded.
National polls have found fading support among GOP voters for U.S. aid to Ukraine. A new Morning Consult poll, for example, found that Americans believe defending Ukraine is in America’s interest by a 49 to 29 percent margin. But among Republicans, only 37 percent agree while 46 percent disagree.
It is a sign that while traditional Republicans — sometimes referred to as “Reagan Republicans” — may control much of the conservative media and dominate the pundit class, the primary voters DeSantis, Trump, and possibly Sununu will be fighting for have a far more isolationist stance.
Interestingly, DeSantis has since clarified his comments to Carlson, telling Piers Morgan in a Fox News special he believes “Putin is a war criminal” who invaded his neighbor.
“I think the larger point is, OK, Russia is not showing the ability to take over Ukraine, to topple the government, or certainly to threaten NATO. That’s a good thing. I just don’t think that’s a sufficient interest for us to escalate more involvement. I would not want to see American troops involved there. But the idea that I think somehow Russia was justified” in invading is “nonsense,” DeSantis said.
NOTE: An earlier version of this article misreported the polling data of Republican and undeclared voters regarding aid for Ukraine. We regret the error.