DeSantis Has Built Early Polling Support
The way Mr. DeSantis got this strength is relatively impressive as well. Unlike three of the six candidates, he is not the direct relative of a former president. He was not a nonpartisan national hero in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, like Mr. Giuliani. The two remaining candidates who did not benefit from a family name or exceptional events — Mr. Reagan and Mr. Obama — are arguably the two most impressive political figures of the last half-century.
There’s no need to speculate about whether Mr. DeSantis is the “next” Reagan or Obama. Not even Mr. Obama and Mr. Reagan were clearly Obama or Reagan at this stage. And Mr. Reagan and Mr. Obama differ from Mr. DeSantis in the very same way that he’s purportedly similar to Mr. Walker, as both Mr. Obama and Mr. Reagan rose to prominence by commanding the national stage in famous speeches during their party’s campaigns in 1964 and 2004.
But even if Mr. DeSantis is not a renowned orator, it could be a mistake to assume that his popularity is nothing more than the sum of the political capital accrued from his policy moves. The simplest explanation for his unusual popularity is that Republicans haven’t just liked what he’s done, but also that they’ve liked what they’ve seen and heard of Mr. DeSantis himself. His charisma may not be what won them over, but Republicans probably aren’t under any illusion that he’s as charismatic as Mr. Reagan or Mr. Obama. At this point, Republicans have seen and heard a lot. Many support him anyway.
After all, most modern presidential nominees — Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain, John Kerry, Mitt Romney, Al Gore, to name eight recent ones — were not exactly superstar political talents distinguished by soaring oratory, made-for-television charisma, clap-backs on social media or dominant debate performances. What they had was a deep base of mass and elite support. Deprived of that advantage, there’s no reason to think they would have fared any better than those without it, like Mr. Walker or Ms. Harris.
Would Mr. Biden have won the nomination if he had entered the 2020 campaign with as little support as Mr. Walker had in 2016? Not likely. In fact, we know he fell flat in two prior presidential bids that began without the blessing of such support and when he was a more energetic campaigner.
Mr. DeSantis will probably need to be a relatively strong campaigner and debater to survive against made-for-television Mr. Trump. But the burden on him will nonetheless be quite a bit less than it was for Mr. Walker, who needed to impress voters, activists and donors to earn the support and attention that Mr. DeSantis already has in his possession. He has done the hard part already.