DeSantis can't win the GOP nomination or the general election in 2024

We talked a bit about Ron DeSantis in a thread I recently started here (Nikki Haley announces US presidential run for 2024), so I thought we discuss his run in greater detail here.

First, let’s not argue the point that DeSantis (or Haley) could theoretically win the GOP nomination. Either could, since there is no strong GOP candidate. But based on the current field (those two plus Trump, Pompeo, and a few even weaker prospects) whoever wins is going to be a weak candidate about whom few are enthusiastic and who has no chance against Biden. Think Dukakis (D) in 1988 or Dole (R) in 1996.

What I wish to argue is that DeSantis is a weak Republican primary candidate that will not be enthusiastically embraced by the GOP electorate and has no chance of winning the general election against Biden.

I’ll break it up into two parts.

DeSantis is a weak Republican primary candidate that will not be enthusiastically embraced by the GOP electorate.

This is probably the more controversial of the claims, but I feel that I am on solid ground. For 2024, owing to the complete dominance of Trump and Trumpism in the GOP since 2016, there are three types of GOP primary candidates: Trump, Trump imitators, and those trying to break with Trump. All three types are weak:

  • Trump is weak because he has already lost to Biden (big L on forehead), he can only serve one more term, he is disgraced in the public eye, and he has mounting legal issues. Further, enthusiasm for this criminal is only a small fraction of what it was in 2016. Howbeit, the GOP is still nuts enough and stupid enough to nominate him despite these factors, and I think he has the biggest chance of winning among current candidates.

  • Trump imitators are very weak, since the debased and ignorant GOP voters still want Trump (insofar as they are enthusiastic about anyone at this point). Nevertheless, they will still choose a Trumpist over a non-Trumpist.

  • Those trying to break with Trump (including half-assers like Haley) are the ultimate weak sauce. It’s like trying to give a meth addict camomile tea when they’re tweaking.

Needless to say, DeSantis is an unashamed Trump imitator. The problem is that, while one can say and do dickish things like Trump, one cannot really imitate or emulate Trump. Trump is sui generis. Like Hitler before him, Trump had the rare ability to channel the resentment and rage of the masses to the degree that he did. (I am using past tense because, now that Trump is a loser, his power is greatly diminished.) Also like Hitler (though his style is much different), Trump was a great speaker with strong charisma.

Further, DeSantis is certainly a dick, and he’s clearly an authoritarian, but he’s not amoral like Trump. Unlike Trump, DeSantis has a real marriage. He has beliefs. He sounds like a pol because he really is one, and he’s riding on the rails of American political traditions. Say what you will about the guy, but he IMO would not try to pull a January 6. I actually think he would make for a pretty normal GOP president (which is something that totally sucks but isn’t as bad as Trump). But here’s the thing: GOP voters don’t want that. They want, to the extent that they are not fatigued from wanting it and getting a good taste of it, a guy who will really fuck things up. Like Trump.

Despite all this, the fantasy has been that DeSantis can take up the mantle of Trumpism and yet be, unlike his mentor, intelligent, focused, in control, etc. He could be Trump without the baggage but with the ability to, you know, actually be president!

But it’s not true because:

  • DeSantis is a very poor public speaker. He doesn’t hold rallies; he can’t work a crowd.
  • DeSantis has no discernible charisma–or personality, for that matter.
  • DeSantis comes across as your standard self-aggrandizing pol, speaking and thinking according to the template–the very opposite of Trump, in this respect.
  • DeSantis is a Trump toady and mentee and conveys no “alpha male” dominance of his own. He’s a Himmler, not a Hitler.
  • DeSantis will have to face Trump in the primary, and he will immediately be shut down by the real alpha dawg. He in no wise has the power to defy or dominate Trump with any credibility.

In short, although he is doing his best to be a fascist culture warrior, DeSantis just can’t offer the Trump drug the GOP electorate has become used to mainlining. The only reason that this reality hasn’t sunk in yet is that people are fantasizing about DeSantis without having experienced him much yet (listening to this guy try to talk is painful!).

OK, even if we grant that DeSantis can’t compete with Trump on Trump’s terms, surely he can blow away the rest of the GOP field, right?

I don’t think even that is true. Let’s take DeSantis versus Pompeo. Sure, the latter is a completely unappealing candidate, but he can speak with much more intelligence and gravitas than DeSantis and destroys him away when it comes to knowledge of, probably anything, but at least of foreign policy, the functioning of the federal government, etc. (Pompeo is Heydrich reborn–the dude is scary!). I actually think even Nikki Haley would fare better than DeSantis in a debate in terms of gravitas, dominance, and such other qualities as people currently fantasize DeSantis has.

Thus, while DeSantis’s wingnut cultural warrior antics will appeal to GOP primary voters, he won’t really seem very strong or dominant compared to other candidates, and certainly not compared to Trump himself. It’s a no-win situation for him. He will not power his way to a definitive win.

DeSantis has no chance of winning the general election against Biden.

Here the fantasy has been that DeSantis, by emulating Trump, can pick up the Trumpist GOP base but seem sane and competent enough to get enough votes outside this base to beat Biden.

Not a chance. Even if he wins the GOP nomination, DeSantis will only have tepid support from the Trumpist base, which will negatively impact GOP voter turnout.

Then there is the reality that DeSantis is weaker than Biden in almost every way:

  • Biden is the better speaker and has more charisma and gravitas (even though he is not particularly strong in these qualities himself).
  • Biden is much more experienced. He is the incumbent, after all, which is always a challenge to beat.
  • FWIW, Biden is taller (6’0" versus 5’9").
  • Biden is a fairly popular and successful president and is seen as hopeful and inclusive, whereas DeSantis is moderately popular and “successful” in a red state sort of way but is seen as divisive and contentious on the national stage. Put another way, Biden is seen as and self-identifies as moderate whereas DeSantis is seen as and self-identifies as right-wing.

The only way I see DeSantis as possibly winning is if Biden cannot run. Even then, his victory is not a given.

In conclusion…

GOP prospects for the 2024 presidential election are terrible for multiple reasons. Whether he wins or not (and even if he doesn’t continue his run), Trump is going to turn the primary into a shitshow. The fantasy has been that somehow DeSantis can square the circle of Trumpism by bringing some normalcy and competence to it, but it’s a nonstarter. He will be beaten down by Trump or just the shadow of Trump while looking weak and moronic compared to other candidates with more intelligence, experience, and gravitas. Even if he should limp his way to the nomination, DeSantis will be crushed like a bug by Dark Brandon.

Those are my thoughts. What are yours? Thanks!

I disagree that Trumpists still want Trump. I am seeing people who were previously pro-Trump go silent on him, but voicing pro-De Santis sentiments.

What is your evidence that the rank & file crazies* still want Trump?

*referring to their logic, not their mental health.

I agree that this trend exists. Trump is a loser, and time has passed since his presidency, so it’s not surprising that many of his followers are losing their religion. I think these people are, for now, embracing the fantasy of “a better Trump” but will be disappointed with DeSantis once they get to know him better. This is due to their learning both that DeSantis himself is unappealing and that Trump can’t be replaced by anyone.

Trump Has Slight Lead Over DeSantis In GOP Primary, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds

To elaborate further on what Dr.Drake said:

I don’t make the comparison to drug addiction gratuitously. I think a certain segment of the American population got a real rush from Trumpism starting in 2016 and rode that high all the way to 1/6/2021.

Trump lost, however, and they had to come down. There was no more drug on the streets.

Since then, many have lost their addiction completely. They are no longer Trumpists. It’s a spectrum, however, and some have weak cravings while some are still tweaking as hard as they ever did.

For some of the as yet addicted, only Trump will do. Others are looking for a replacement. Many of the latter are hoping that DeSantis will provide as good of an authoritarian and fascist high as Trump once did, but they are going to be disappointed.

If DeSantis secures the GOP nomination (and he is second most likely to do so behind Trump IMO), then he has an excellent chance at winning the general election.

All that matters is: can he convince the conservative base in America that he will “own the libs”. I think he’s still on his way there, but Trump does it better.

But Trump lost to Biden. So why would DeSantis fare better than Trump? (Plus, Trump had a bunch of advantages, such as being the incumbent, that DeSantis would not have…)

Trump lost last time, but that doesn’t mean he’ll lose next time.

I think of it this way… Imagine that people find out that the extremely-popular Popeye’s chicken sandwich is making everyone sick. That something in the seasoning is causing reactions in people that cause them to develop some nasty disease over time if they continue to eat them. So Popeye’s stops selling it, but offers a new, safer sandwich in its place. It has different seasonings that don’t cause illness, but even though it looks and smells the same, it just tastes boring, like any old chicken sandwich. People will still buy it but without the fervor they did before, and it’ll stop being a phenomenon.

I guess I see what you’re saying. I expect DeSantis will fail in his bid to become president and will have to be content with being the autocrat over a continually-worsening Florida that he pushes even further into the gutter.

I’ve long been skeptical of the “DeSantis is a smarter and more dangerous Trump,” partly because it preassumes that he’ll have the same level of success as Trump with the same people for the same reasons, and I’ve never seen it. Obviously, nothing’s impossible, but I’m just not sure I see DeSantis as someone with the wide appeal and invulnerability that Trump has.

Potentially different circumstances in 2024, versus 2020.

In 2020:

  • It’s likely that at least some voters came out to vote for Biden in 2020, specifically because they were fed up with Trump (not just his MAGA policies, but all of his personal baggage)
  • The Trump administration’s mishandling of the COVID-19 response in 2020 likely motivated some independent voters, as well.

Whereas, in 2024:

  • The economy is perceived by many to be wobbly right now (high inflation, high interest rates, weak stock market performance), even if we’re not technically in a recession. If that continues into next year, Biden will get the blame among many voters.
  • Biden will be 81, going on 82, when the election comes around. If perceptions grow among independent voters that his mental and physical conditions aren’t up to the task, that’d be an issue.
  • DeSantis may not have Trump’s “charisma” among MAGAts, but he also doesn’t seem to have the kind of just dumb-ass baggage surrounding him that Trump has (and had all along).

Yes, Biden beat Trump in 2020, in a race that came down to very narrow victories in a handful of swing states. It wouldn’t have taken much for those swing states to have gone the other way.

I agree that he has been successful, but he’s not popular. He’s exactly where Trump was at this point – on this page, if you scroll down, it shows Biden vs. other presidents at the same point in each’s presidencies.

If you had said Trump would win because he’s fairly popular, especially on this board four years ago, you would be shouted down. I don’t know how to explain Biden’s unpopularity, but it’s pretty indisputable.

Here’s my guess at an explanation: Fox and other right wing news sources will constantly dump on Democrats, so 40% of the population will always have a negative view of a Dem president. However, normal news sources will publish good and bad pieces on any president, so half of the rest of the population will end up with unfavorable views in the name of “balance.”

ETA: The previous poster mentions the economy. It’s a great example of what I mention in my last paragraph – the economy is actually doing quite well (as opposed to “not technically in a recession”) – unemployment is at record lows, inflation appears to be moderating, wages are keeping up with prices. However, mainstream news sources make it seem like it’s not doing well, with headlines like “inflation is down, but it’s not all good news”, and Fox News viewers think the economy is in the dumps.

Yes, great analogy!

But he’s far weaker now than he was in 2020, so why would he win against Biden?

…because the election isn’t tomorrow, and maybe when there actually is an election, he might be stronger than he was in 2020.

Just like in 2016, many people did not vote for Trump but rather Not-Clinton and in 2020 many people did not vote for Biden but rather Not-Trump, DeSantis (or any other Pub nominee) is counting on people voting for Not-Biden.

I think this will be a fascinating thread to follow, and I agree with a lot of the points made thus far (and the chicken sandwich analogy was spot-on) but I cringe when I see such absolutes as “he has no chance”, “he will be crushed”, etc. Call it PTSD from hearing the same phrases, 6 1/2 years ago.

I would love to see things play out as the OP describes, but I’m also of the same mind that yes, 81 million Americans voted for Biden in 2020, but how many of those were votes FOR Biden, rather than against Trump (not to mention, at the peak of Covid).

If it’s Biden vs Desantis, I have a hard time seeing another 81 million voter turnout for Biden, but you can bet I would be one of them.

He’ll win if more Republicans vote in the correct states. The last election was very close.

I think the most likely thing to sink DeSantis if he gets the nomination is Trump. Trump will attack him hard during the primaries. Trumps base, whatever is left of it (large or small) will never vote for Desantis. That will doom him.

Red state conservatives in are going to vote for whomever has an R next to their name in the general no matter what (Blue states are equally as predictable). The swing voters in only a few purple states are going to have all the impact in the next election, and I can see how DeSantis could appeal to them, especially those that are right-leaning, that had had enough of Trump in the last election and voted Biden or stayed home. They may see DeSantis as a more “normal” Conservative and be okay going back to voting R.

It’s early yet, but I can see DeSantis winning the nomination. He’s played his cards close to the vest so far, letting others make mistakes and use up oxygen in the room, and yet has created a lot of newsy stories with his whole anti-woke thing. He’s capturing people’s imagination by staying out of the race, for now. That can pay dividends later. Yes, he’s an unlikable character around here and in blue states, but I have heard some of my conservative friends mentioning his name so he has appeal across the aisle - he’s not trying to appeal to D voters.

Your overview here is good. Let me respond a bit:

I think you are correct here.

True. But this was also true during the 2022 midterm, and Democrats did very well. It’s of course not just about the economy but things like the abortion fiasco, the overall crazy of the GOP, etc. I don’t think these things are going to turn in the GOP’s favor, either in terms of people’s lived reality or their perception of that.

Yes, I would say that this is the biggest factor against him. Not so much with respect to Trump, who is also old now, but DeSantis does have youth on his side.

I think he’s lost both sides of this equation. He doesn’t have Trump’s “it factor,” yet he’s done enough of his own debased wingnut shit to turn off “independents.”

His popular vote margin was strong, however. The Electoral College challenge will always be there, but I don’t see much potential for that factor to get worse for the Democrats.