McGovern won the Democratic nomination in 1972 when there were two candidates polling in the 20s and one in the low 30s in the early surveys of that primary. I’m not exactly sure how applicable the 1972 cycle is to 2024 given that was the first year of the modern primary era, when it wasn’t clear exactly how early-state momentum could dictate the nomination process. Even so, McGovern’s win is notable.

Another notable polling ascent happened during the 1984 Democratic primary. Gary Hart didn’t get above 5% in the national polls in either the first or second half of 1983. The Colorado senator was far behind the eventual nominee (former Vice President Walter Mondale) who was polling in the 30s in the first half of 1983 and in the 40s in the second half of the year.

While Mondale eventually emerged victorious, Hart finished close behind. The 1984 race (like potentially 2024, with DeSantis) featured another much-hyped candidate (Ohio Sen. John Glenn) who was polling above 20% in early polling. Glenn, of course, flamed out.

Again, I’m not saying DeSantis is like Glenn. My belief is that the 2024 GOP nominee is likely going to be either DeSantis or Trump.

But what I am saying is that while Trump or DeSantis are the odds-on favorites for the nomination, there is enough history of low-polling candidates later gaining traction to at least be open to the idea that a Haley, Pence or somebody else could, if nothing else, make things interesting come voting time.