Trump has weak spots … but they are not hurting him yet
When analyzing political campaigns, you look at a lot of factors – including endorsement, fundraising, and polling numbers (horserace and on issues). Among the more difficult factors to analyze are the likelihood of future events. For example, there is much speculation about the condition of the economy in eleven months from now. Even though that will have a major bearing on President Biden’s prospects, there is no way to know that future. Although a lot of pundits take out-of-the-butt guesses and hope they are right.
The biggest unforeseeable issue with President Trump is the outcome of his many court cases – at least those that will reach an outcome before Election Day 2024. At this point, the ones that could have the greatest impact on his campaign are the ones that are most likely to be unresolved by next November.
Certainly, the prospect of criminal convictions will have a potential effect. But based on the past, it is not certain whether it will have a positive or negative impact. The phenomenon of Trump improving his standing in the polls with each new indictment is mindboggling. Will – as the Wall Street Journal questioned – the Democrats “prosecute Trump into the White House?” The only hint we have of the impact of a conviction in one of the criminal casess is some polling that shows a critical decline in Trump support. On balance, I would call Trump’s legal problems a weakness. Perhaps not an Achilles Heel, but a weakness.
It is noteworthy that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis raised more money than Trump in the Second Quarter by $2.4 million dollars — $20.1 million to 17.7 million. That is good news for DeSantis, who many pundits have written off – including this author. While former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is well behind in fundraising, she just got the endorsement of the Koch Brothers’ fundraising network.
Initially, Trump was running the table in terms of endorsements. More recently, we have seen both DeSantis and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley picking up significant endorsements, however.
DeSantis has not reached his opening lever of 20 percent voter support, but he seems to have bounced off a bottom of 9 percent to the current 13 percent. Haley has moved up from 2 percent to 9 percent. Normally, this movement would be another indicator of a weak spot in the Trump campaign. But we do not see that in the numbers. In fact, Trump is at his highest numbers among likely GOP voters.
Another hint of potential weakness for Trump is in the configuration of the primary elections. DeSantis is doing better in Iowa than he is doing nationally – although still significantly behind Trump. New Hampshire presents at least a possibility that Trump would lose a primary in the Granite State to either DeSantis or Haley. That could give a winner a momentum booster rocket.
Despite those hints of weakness, Trump commands an impressive – if not completely overwhelming – lead for the GOP nomination. How this translates into the 2024 General Election is anyone’s guess. As I have written in the past, the head-to-head polling between Trump and Biden means absolutely nothing in terms of predicting the final outcome. In some polls Trump leads by a couple points. In others, Biden is a smidgeon ahead. It is always within the margin of error. Ergo, meaningless at this point. Those who put money where their mouth is – the Las Vegas odds makers – are betting on Biden 6/4. Even that is too close to call.
As far as the primary is concerned, the safe money is betting on both Trump for the Republicans and Biden for the Democrats. If Trump is to be beaten in the primaries, either DeSantis or Haley is going to have to nail a couple of Trump’s weak spots – and they have to do it within a couple months.
So. There ‘tis.