The Platform

Donald Trump with two of his children in 2016. (Mark Reinstein/Shutterstock)

While the United States still must undergo potentially messy midterms, voters are starting to look towards 2024. While it might be assumed that President Biden will run for reelection, his chances look particularly dim. So, while Democrats are on the fence about a nominee, potential nominees on the Republican side are being narrowed down to two: former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Trump has been trying to kneecap DeSantis by teasing another run for the presidency.

But DeSantis has been quiet, working in the shadows and retaining a facade of civility. Touted as the next generation of brash, neo-conservative Republican leadership, DeSantis has already shown his popularity, beating Trump among likely GOP voters. But DeSantis’ run has raised one important question: can he uproot Trump and win the Republican nomination? The short answer is yes. DeSantis will best Trump for the Republican nomination. This prediction is based on two factors. First, Trump fatigue, and second, initial polling numbers suggesting a possible DeSantis victory.

Trump fatigue and his MAGA ideology is becoming more and more tedious with American voters. Trump’s popularity is on the decline, despite consistent appeals from Trump that he is the leader of the party. For example, recent polls have shown that over half of GOP voters want someone other than Trump. With two years out of the spotlight, it seems as though the former president is starting to lose his edge with the base. Many in Trump’s orbit are already asking him to push back his presidential bid until after the midterms, because it could negatively affect the party’s results in the midterms.

What does this say about Trump? Simply, the president is losing support from all sides of his base. Another major factor in Trump’s eroding popularity is coming with the publicization of the January 6th hearings. The hearings have portrayed Trump as an enraged man filled with delusions of victory. To many voters, the image of the former president “throwing food against a White House wall, voicing support for threats against [Mike Pence], and dismissing the news that some of his supporters had come armed with [guns]” is not synonymous with effective leadership.

Trump is being deserted on all sides, as voters and fellow party members have grown tired of his antics. All of this is not meant to say that Trump has lost the backing of his MAGA sycophants. His support remains incredibly high, and right now, he looks like a strong candidate for the nomination. However, the cracks in the Trump alliance that propelled him to victory in 2016 might be showing, and DeSantis is clearly laying the groundwork for a run for the presidency.

Preliminary polling numbers are giving DeSantis a lead, one which most likely will embolden the Florida governor to officially jump in the race. For example, DeSantis already is polling higher than Trump in New Hampshire, a key battleground state. Specifically, the numbers show DeSantis at +62 net favorability, the highest in the field of potential candidates tested. For context, Trump came in at +54.

With that in mind, we can already see the fermentation of new political waves in the landscape. Already so early in the election cycle, a DeSantis lead over the most popular conservative right now speaks volumes of his ability to best Trump. But while the former president remains a solid frontrunner, DeSantis is quickly closing the gap. A Yahoo/YouGov poll from June shows DeSantis trailing the president by only nine points in a hypothetical match-up. Similarly, in a positive sign for DeSantis, less than half of registered voters who identify as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents say they would choose Trump (45%) over DeSantis. Another 36% say they would pick DeSantis, while 18% say they’re not sure. While the numbers don’t show an advantage yet, the numbers are startling and indicative. DeSantis is popular and liked, and with momentum brewing on his side.

We still have 27 months until the next presidential election, but in many ways, this will be one of the most atypical elections in modern history, and with that, the Republican Party might go with the atypical candidate. DeSantis has arisen as a strong contender against Trump for the nomination, and through current trends, I predict him to be the nominee. The rub is, it’s DeSantis’ to lose.

Zain Rahman is a student in Northern Virginia. His areas of interest include foreign policy, economics, and philosophy.