Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Great American Comeback” in the 2024 Republican presidential primaries seems doomed to failure even before it starts. No one has ever come back from a 37-point deficit to become his party’s nominee.
Trump stands at 53.1% compared with 15.8% for DeSantis according to the latest Real Clear Politics Average. The Washington Post notes that Barack Obama closed the nearly 28-point deficit he had behind Hillary Clinton in October 2007 and came back to win the Democratic nomination and the presidency.
DeSantis lacks Obama’s oratory skills and charisma, which is making it hard for him to connect with voters like Obama or Trump. Unlike other challengers, DeSantis has to deal with a hardened bloc with unswerving allegiance to the frontrunner.
Trump voters are loyal to the former president personally. This race is not like others that were decided based on issues. It’s as much of a referendum on Trump personally as anything else.
Thus far, Trump’s indictments have created a phenomenon of his supporters rallying to his aid. He has improved his lead from 43% in early March to where it is today.
Prior Presidents Mounted Comebacks
In 1992, Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, trailed the then-favorite former Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas by somewhere in the mid-teens in the polls before running away with a victory in that year’s Super Tuesday contest.
Jimmy Carter came back in 1976 to beat Alabama Gov. George Wallace for the Democratic nomination despite trailing him by 25 points at one point in the election.
Bernie Sanders Came Back From Bigger Margin Only to Still Lose
Sen. Bernie Sanders closed a 50-point gap with Hillary Clinton in 2016; however, DeSantis does not seem to have the same charisma that Sanders had.
Sanders gained on Clinton in the polls in 2016; however, emails emerged later in the 2016 campaign that showed that the Democratic National Committee rigged the primary elections for Clinton.
DeSantis likely will not face a rigged primary; however, he has to face the force of Trump’s celebrity that will not be easy to beat.
In 2016, Clinton had a lock over her party’s establishment. Today, Trump has a hold over his party to the dismay of its establishment like former House Speaker Paul Ryan who prefers someone other than Trump.
Ron DeSantis Faces Trump’s Celebrity
Salon columnist Neil Gabler observed that Trump’s “seems mostly based on his status as a celebrity, or someone who is famous for being famous. ‘Trump is the Kardashian of politics.’”
The Florida governor has struggled with his language. Talk about Marxism has not galvanized against Trump, nor has his effort to hold Trump responsible for the 2020 lockdowns.
“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters,” Trump joked in 2016.
“… [T]he front-runner here isn’t just a front-runner; he is a known-quantity former president, running as something of a de facto incumbent. We just don’t see primary leads this large very often, so it stands to reason that we wouldn’t have seen such a comeback. And there’s an argument to be made that things can fluctuate more wildly in such a scenario — particularly if casual voters who aren’t paying much attention are just falling back on saying they’ll vote for Trump, for now,” Washington Post Staff Writer Aaron Blake writes.
John Rossomando is a defense and counterterrorism analyst and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, The National Interest, National Review Online, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award for his reporting.