There’s been a longstanding saying that “Democrats fall in love, while Republicans fall in line.” When picking presidential candidates, Democrats have historically sought someone who gives them goosebumps, while Republicans are happy to be good soldiers.
In 1996, Bob Dole was the Senate majority leader. In 2000, Bush was governor of the biggest red state. In 2008, John McCain was the guy who came in second in 2000. In 2012, Mitt Romney was the guy who came in second in 2008.
Trump flipped this standard for both sides. Republican primary voters fell in love with him in 2016, while Democrats fell in line for Joe Biden in 2020. Knowing they could slip him past the goalie in enough swing states, party puppet masters cracked the whip for Amtrak Joe, despite his zero real diversity points, inappropriate behavior toward women and girls, and championing causes they now consider haram.
Because of this paradigm shift, pundits will spend the next year speculating if either will lead their respective parties going into 2024. While there are plenty of questions to ask on both sides, one fact is irrefutable in American politics right now.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is the only popular national public figure.
That’s according to the figures from our friends at Real Clear Politics, who present a daily composite of various polls to present a political leader’s net favorability ratings, subtracting their disapproval from their approval. This polling data gets more attention in the days leading up to an election, but popularity is still important to most people during the off-season.
Here’s how the numbers look as of January 25.
- Gov. Ron DeSantis: +7.2
- Pres. Joe Biden: -10.1
- Sen. Chuck Schumer: -15
- VP Kamala Harris: -16.4
- Speaker Kevin McCarthy: -18.2
- Rep. Nancy Pelosi: -19
- Donald Trump: -21.1
- Sen. Mitch McConnell: -32.8!
To repeat: favorability is important to most people. Regardless of what you think about Sen. McConnell, you have to admire his thick skin. He also gets that the only people he needs to win over live in Kentucky, and they love him: he won with 20 points over his opponent in 2020, flipping seven of the ten counties he lost in 2014.
DeSantis’s victory last year was just as impressive, winning with a 20 point landslide after a 0.4 point squeaker in 2018. When he started as governor, Florida was sending 13 Democrats to the House; now they’re only sending eight. The Sunshine governor is championing the right battles in the right ways, showcasing limousine liberals’ hypocrisy on immigration, fighting woke indoctrination, and offering asylum to Libs of TikTok after she was doxxed by left-wing terrorists.
And this is all working for DeSantis. The YouGov poll in mid-November gave him just a net +3 favorability while the most recent one gives him a net +15. PredictIt is favors DeSantis over both Biden and Trump, and Elon Musk pre-emptively endorsed him. Things seem so inevitable for DeSantis at this point that California Gov. Gavin Newsom has already started airing attack ads against him.
Newsom seems to think he’ll carry the Democrat flag next year. He might; it seems impossible that Biden will be mentally fit or even alive by then. If Harris’ unfavorability weren’t so high, Biden would have already been 25th Amendment-ed out of office.
While pundits speculate between DeSantis or Trump, the more interesting question to pose is who Democrats will pick. In 2008, the decision between Clinton and Obama forced them to answer the question “Are we sexist or racist?” – the question is much more complicated now.
Democrats’ favorite for 2024 appears to be Pete Buttigieg, whose only accomplishments are being gay and photogenic. That might not be enough for their Big Tent, and we can all hope for a long, drawn-out, painful primary battle among them. If an incompetent secretary of transportation manages to come out on top, he won’t stand a chance after four years of so-called progressive mismanagement of our economy and foreign policy.
Trump’s accomplishments on those fronts should have made him a shoe-in for re-election – a roaring stock market, record low unemployment, four Middle East peace deals, crushing ISIS rather than surrendering to the Taliban, not starting World War III with a cult-like energy policy, etc. Alas that just didn’t matter to many people, as we’ve discussed before: modern elections are popularity contests, not job interviews.
The Trump presidency gave the country (and the world) a wake-up call it needed. But as the sunshine from DeSantis’ star continues to rise in 2024, let’s remember that good soldiers can also have goosebumps.
Jared Whitley is a longtime D.C. and Utah politico and award-winning political writer, having worked in the office of Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Bush White House and the defense industry. He has an MBA from Hult International Business School in Dubai.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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