The prospect of a Republican primary battle between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis is already a hot topic in political news media, despite the fact that neither man has officially declared that he will run in 2024. All of the major media outlets have reported on remarkable stats such as DeSantis raising more funds than Trump last month. Fox News played a video montage reel that showed attendees at a conservative conference saying that they preferred for DeSantis to be the next GOP Presidential Nominee.
In response to reports of growing enthusiasm for DeSantis, Trump has downplayed DeSantis’ chances to overtake his role as the party favorite. Obviously, the natural advantage of a prior presidency is typically a major advantage for any candidate, but in Trump’s case, it may prove to be more an asset than a liability, and Trump can’t expect to broaden his base simply by complaining that DeSantis is just copying his playbook. In that sense, Trump has painted himself into a corner, because he can’t criticize the platform of a successful governor who was elected, acccording to Trump, due to his embrace of Trump’s policies.
History offers plenty of valuable lessons in high-stakes rivalries between nearly identical icons. Back in 1912, as cream sandwich cookies gained massive popularity, Hydrox faced mounting competition from the newcomer, the Oreo cookie. In response to the new competition, Hydrox’s parent company, Sunshine, changed its advertising objective to tout and distinguish Hydrox as the original cream filled chocolate cookie and warned consumers to not be fooled by copycat competitors. It was a direct shot at Nabsico’s Oreo. Conversely, Nabisco’s marketing chose to ignore the attacks from Sunshine and Hyrdox. Rather than engage in a back-and-forth with Sunshine, Nabsico highlighted Oreo’s great taste and positive features, with no mention of Hydrox or any similar brands. How did Nabsico’s decision to ignore Hydrox’s attacks pay off?
Ultimately, consumers responded so positively to Oreo’s branding that they forgot Hydrox was the original cookie and eventually, Oreo was confused as the original cream sandwich cookie, while Hydrox was confused as the copycat competitor, a belief which still persists decades later in pop culture.
Ron DeSantis has nothing to gain and everything to lose if he criticizes Trump. Unfortunately for Trump, his only safe route is to tout himself as the original conservative fighter, but in the world of politics where voters want to see what you’ve done for them lately, DeSantis has the unique of advantage of currently holding office, while Trump is retired and limited to his online presence.
Trump is still the heavy favorite to be the 2024 nominee, and DeSantis would be considered a huge underdog if he were to challenge Trump, but Trump’s most reliable voter base not only peaked, it’s shrinking by the thousands each day, due to an unpreventable factor: age. Trump’s largest base of support are senior citizens of the Baby Boomer era, and an average of 5,300 baby boomers die each day. By 2024, there will be approximately 7.7 million fewer baby boomers than 2020, and 18 million fewer since 2016.
Even when Trump’s approval rating was at its highest levels, his support among voters under the age of 40 typically ranged between 12 to 15 points lower than voters over the age of 40. Ron DeSantis is only 43 years old, and his national name recognition still has room to grow. Each year in politics is like a dog year. Assuming Trump and DeSantis both announce their candidacy in 2023, don’t be surprised if by July 2023, DeSantis is either neck-and-neck with Trump or enjoying a slight lead, mostly due to forces beyond anyone’s control.