Donald Trump’s victory in the 2024 Republican primary is not certain. But it now looks more than merely likely.
The former president boasts more than twice as much support as Ron DeSantis, leading the Florida governor by a 51-to-24 percent margin in FiveThirtyEight’s average of GOP primary polls. No other candidate is polling above 6 percent. And the gap between Trump and DeSantis has been growing steadily wider for weeks.
Indeed, the Viktor Orbán of the Sunshine State appears to be wilting beneath the heat of the national spotlight. DeSantis presents better on paper than on television. He did manage to push a thoroughly Trumpist agenda and then win a landslide reelection in a purple state. And he also served as the national standard-bearer of conservative COVID doves throughout the pandemic. But the small-bore acts of constituent service that earned DeSantis bipartisan approval in Florida — such as wetlands restoration and raises for public-school teachers — don’t really translate to the national stage. And they certainly aren’t winning cards in a Republican primary. Meanwhile, the salience of DeSantis’s opposition to vaccine and mask mandates declines with each passing day.
Put aside all the reasons DeSantis is theoretically an appealing candidate and you’re left with all the reasons he isn’t one in reality. The man is charmless. He does not like people, and it shows. His antipathy to schmoozing and glad-handing is so powerful that he can’t be bothered to reliably return calls from billionaire GOP megadonors. He eats pudding with his fingers. Trump, an inveterate bully, has no trouble identifying his rival’s pain points and squeezing them mercilessly. This week, the Republican front-runner suggested DeSantis may soon be forced to seek “an emergency personality transplant.” [Continue reading…]