Sunday, September 17, 2023


It's conventional wisdom that Ron DeSantis's presidential campaign is circling the drain, but while he'll never catch Trump, he's still the GOP's second choice:
Former President Donald Trump beat Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) by more than 35 points in the Pray Vote Stand Summit straw poll released on Saturday.

The straw poll showed Trump with 63.9% and DeSantis with 27.3%, less than a day after both Florida men addressed the summit from the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.

... No other candidate received more than 3%. Former Vice President Mike Pence got 2.2%, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) got 1.9%, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy got 1.7%, and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley got 1.5%.
DeSantis is the crowd favorite to be Vice President, with 25% support, well ahead of second place Sen. Tim Scott’s 19%.
(DeSantis says he doesn't want to be a VP candidate, and I suspect Trump wouldn't want to run with someone who's as run-over-his-own-grandmother ambitious as DeSantis, so this ticket probably won't happen.)

The Pray Vote Stand Summit was sponsored by the Family Research Council, so it's a surprise that Mike Pence and Tim Scott, the two most obvious God-botherers in the race, didn't do better. But Evangelical voters no longer seem interested in Christian messages -- even Christian-right messages. They like secular anger and vengeance. DeSantis is no Trump, but he puts more effort into lib-owning than any other candidate in the race, so his strong finish makes sense.

He's still the only candidate apart from Trump who's in double digits in Iowa, according to the Real Clear Politics average. And while he's tied with Vivek Ramaswamy in polls of a Trump-less field (the Harvard/Harris poll has DeSantis at 23% and Ramaswamy at 22% in a Trump-free race, with no one else higher than 12%; a late-August Echelon poll had DeSantis at 34% and Ramaswamy at 32% with Trump out of the field, and no one else reached double digits), it's a surprise, given DeSantis's recent press coverage, that he's still a front-runner.

I bring all this up because some observers still hope Trump won't be the nominee. Maybe the Fourteenth Amendment gambit will survive court challenges. (Unlikely, but theoretically possible.) Maybe Trump's health will give out, or his mental health will show some obvious and unignorable deterioration. (I see a lot of folks pointing to a clip of Trump seemingly forgetting that he didn't run against Barack Obama in 2016, and warning that a reelected President Biden could start "World War II." I can't explain the Obama reference, although Obama clearly lived rent-free in Trump's head for years, especially after the 2011 White House Correspondents' Dinner; the reference to World War II is probably just a misreading of a roman numeral on Trump's Teleprompter, the likely consequence of Trump's refusal to wear the corrective lenses he clearly needs.) Maybe convictions in Trump's criminal trials will inspire GOP voters or the party establishment to reject him as a candidate. (Highly unlikely, but conceivable.) If this happens, I think DeSantis will beat Ramaswamy for the nomination. (Ramaswamy is the most shameless Trump wannabe, and unlike DeSantis he actually seems as young as he is, but he's not Christian or of European descent, which will seriously hurt his chances, especially in the South.)

I'd like DeSantis to be the nominee, because he appears to be a much weaker general election candidate than Trump. Real Clear Politics now says that Trump has a small lead over Biden in a head-to-head matchup:

But Biden is beating DeSantis:

When I express concern about Trump's fairly strong general election numbers, I'm told it's far too early for the polls to mean anything. But opinions of Trump seem locked in. No matter what happens in his life, his numbers don't seem to change:

DeSantis, on the other hand, has become much less popular with the general public since he entered the race:

Trump's favorability numbers are bad (-14.4), and so are Biden's (-14.1). But DeSantis's numbers are worsening. He's at -13.6, but he's unlikable and he has nothing but extreme positions. I think he'd stick with his "no enemies on the right" platform in a general election campaign, and he obviously can't change his obviously unpleasant personality. By contrast, many voters love Trump's personality, and others dislike it but got used to it during his term in office, and they'd put up with it if they thought he could bring back sub-$3 gas prices.

I think Trump will be the GOP nominee -- but if he isn't, I think DeSantis will take it. I hope he does.

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