Trump number one and sinking
In a recent speech – not the presidential campaign announcement – President Trump cited polling numbers that showed him with 71 percent support among Republican voters. He noted that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had only 10 percent support to be the GOP standard bearer in 2024.
That was then … this is now
Trump was referencing a poll that was taken before DeSantis won his race for governor by more than 20 points – making him the individually biggest political winner in the 2022 midterms. In the latest round of polling, Trump has dropped to 61 percent as the Republican voters’ choice. Still a big number.
However, there are a lot of reasons why Trump holds that lead – and they all do not mean a victory in the summer of 2024, when Republicans meet to nominate their candidate for President of the United States.
A significant part of that 61 percent is picking Trump merely because he is – at this time – the biggest name in the Party. He is — by virtue of being the former President – the titular head of the GOP.
Though names of potential challengers are arising – especially DeSantis – they are not as well known nationally. They have not had a chance to make their sales pitch to Republican voters across the nation. As they do, preferences and loyalties will shift and that 61 percent lead for Trump will diminish.
Trump’s fortunes would then depend on exactly how much it dwindles. If it drops below 40 percent, Trump is in trouble. If it drops below 30 percent, Trump is toast as a viable candidate.
There is another factor, however. To some extent, the race would depend on how many challengers enter the race against Trump – and how equally their support is distributed.
That is how Trump won the nomination in 2016, when most GOP primary voters had cast their ballots for someone other than Trump. It was an unusual year in both the number of candidates in the race (17) and the remarkably equal distribution of support. Trump’s base was barely enough to win delegates in the all-important initial primaries with a narrow plurality. He never exceeded more than 50 percent support until the later primaries, when his nomination seemed increasingly inevitable.
A more ominous number for Trump is found in the Morning Consult/Poltico poll taken after the midterm election. It showed that only 47 percent of Republicans would support Trump if the primaries were held today – less than half. That number is at a time that Trump is without an established challenger … has not been subjected to an alternative campaign … and is arguably at the pinnacle of his political appeal.
Whatever the reality might be, there is one thing that seems clear. Trump is trending downward.
There is a LOT of time between now and Election Day 2024. There are innumerable events that will take place – events we cannot even rationally speculate about. I think it is safe to say, however, that with his tepid launch announcement and his current numbers, Trump is no position to claim to be a future frontrunner.
So, there tis.