It’s often mentioned that polls are merely snapshots in time and don’t mean much, particularly when a race hasn’t even started yet and the election is still months or years away.
But when a survey earlier this week indicated that former President Trump’s recent slide in favor was not only continuing, but accelerating, perhaps it’s now time to take the results seriously. At least that’s likely the thinking in Donald Trump’s universe these days, as the only officially declared 2024 contender is headed the wrong direction in opinion samples.
It’s holiday time after a very contentious election season and most folks aren’t yet paying all that much attention to the 2024 presidential race, but no politician relishes being seen as Scrooge in need of a behavioral correction from the ghosts of the past, present and yet-to-come. Donald Trump has enough to worry about in terms of finding a path to navigate the plethora of political landmines he faces. The last thing he needs is seeing a potential challenger passing him on the road to MAGA success.
But such a circumstance appears to be happening. In a piece titled “GOP support for Trump slipping alongside legal peril, other woes: Poll”, Tom Howell Jr. reported at The Washington Times earlier this week:
“Republican voters like former President Donald Trump‘s policies, but six in 10 would prefer a different leader to carry them out, according to a Tuesday poll that shows Mr. Trump‘s stock dwindling ahead of the 2024 election cycle.
“The USA Today/Suffolk University Poll says 31% of Republican and GOP-leaning voters back Mr. Trump‘s run but 61% would prefer a different candidate to pursue the policies he put forward during his term. And it’s not just any alternative: Two-thirds of GOP voters said they would like to see Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis run and they prefer him in a head-to-head with Mr. Trump, 56% to 33%. ‘Mr. DeSantis also bests President Biden in a hypothetical matchup among all voters, 47%-43%’, the poll says.
“’There’s a new Republican sheriff in town,’ said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. ‘DeSantis outpolls Trump not only among the general electorate but also among these Republican-leaning voters who have been the former president’s base. Republicans and conservative independents increasingly want Trumpism without Trump.’”
While the poll’s results are a bit surprising regarding the growing distance between Trump and DeSantis – and particularly the Florida governor’s margin over the current president -- they were hardly shocking. Howell’s column listed Trump’s legal and public relations flaps as reasons why he’s seemingly dropped in appreciation.
But is there really a new Republican sheriff in town? The GOP establishment would definitely hope that’s the case, though I doubt the lawman’s duties have been irreversibly transferred. Trump still has plenty of money, time, knowledge, experience – and ruthlessness – left in reserve and he won’t hesitate to deploy his talents and advantages when the situation calls for them.
In my own personal “survey” of friends and family members – at least the ones who, like myself, fervently backed Trump two years ago – they all echoed the findings of the poll, namely that they love Trump’s policies but would rather some other, not-so-controversial Republican articulate them and take the party lead.
It’s not necessarily a case of everyone falling in line behind DeSantis, though the young Floridian seems to be the heir apparent to the MAGA mantle – it’s that much of the luster appears to be wearing off of Trump himself. Trump’s dinner with Ye (and the anti-Semites), his social media tantrum over the release of the Twitter files, his erratic responses to his legal issues and, what I would label “Trump fatigue” are all contributing to the downward trend.
As I argued the other day, Trump is not trying to tank the GOP. Still, he’s searching desperately for a ledge to stand on with the tide against him rising and no rescue in sight. You know, something that will give him a head start to making one of his signature comebacks like he’s always managed before.
The difference being that Trump is essentially now on his own against the onslaught of negativity. All throughout his first campaign and during his presidency the former chief executive had a legion of supporters speaking on his behalf whenever something unseemly came to the surface. But this time, who’s defending Trump? Even Kellyanne Conway and Kayleigh McEnany didn’t try to pardon his lapse in judgment over the Ye dinner thing.
What’s there to say? That he should feel free to break bread with whomever he chooses? Sure, that’s fine when you’re not vying for a political office where the opinions of others won’t make or break your existence. But when you’re an announced presidential candidate, the rule is similar to a doctor’s Hippocratic Oath: “First, do no harm”.
Not that the current time period varies tremendously from any other in the past seven and a half years, but Trump’s every word, action, deed and political move is under serious scrutiny right now. He still enjoys the unbreakable loyalty of a large segment of Republicans, but there’s an even larger pool of party enthusiasts who are calling for someone else to lead. And this pool is growing larger by the month.
When combined with the fact senile Joe Biden looks almost certain to run again, the prospect of having a young, articulate and proven leader like DeSantis to put opposite the broken-down lying bag of bones Biden becomes even more attractive. Folks figure Americans will weigh an either-or choice of Biden vs. DeSantis and select the one that makes sense to us – the latter choice.
But we also mustn’t forget DeSantis hasn’t been thoroughly vetted on a national scale – yet. Ron will need to weather what promises to be a bruising primary fight against Trump and then run the gauntlet against national and international leftist-loving media that will definitely be prepared to do everything possible to make DeSantis look like the second coming of Trump, which might as well be the new embodiment of Satan in their eyes.
For those who are positive they want DeSantis now, take a step back and consider that the Florida governor just won reelection, hasn’t even declared his 2024 candidacy yet, and looks awful promising but was never put through the wringer. There’s about 999 miles left to go on a thousand-mile journey. Smart folks recall that former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker was similarly seen as a leading contender for the 2016 GOP nomination, but a couple of lackluster debate performances later the hype ended rather quickly.
We’ve seen it happen too many times. How about Rick Perry in the 2012 race? Recall how the Texas governor got in late and then couldn’t remember the three federal departments he would eliminate if elected president? Perry’s candidacy evaporated in a minute-long soundbite, for better or worse.
If DeSantis truly is to be the new Republican “sheriff”, then he must prove he’s got the wherewithal to stand next to Trump on a debate stage, and with the whole world watching, demonstrate his bona fides. It’s one thing for the Florida governor to go toe-to-toe with the “woke” Democrat forces on his own turf and terms, it’s quite another to back up his qualifications in the heat of “battle”.
Another possibility, though it’s becoming less and less likely as the days and weeks go by, is DeSantis will opt not to run in 2024. There are a lot of reasons why he might not seek to risk getting beaten to a pulp by Trump while giving up all the good things going for him in the bastion of conservatism that is Florida right now.
Add the fact that stumbling, bumbling Joe isn’t being completely obliterated in a possible Biden/ DeSantis head-to-head matchup and conservatives and Republicans should be worried. On paper, every factor leads to the conclusion that senile Joe should be an easy target to eliminate on Election Day, 2024, yet the politician who’s never lost a race simply won’t go away.
By the wagonload, Democrats have signified they don’t want Biden to run again (as Republicans have said the same thing about Trump), but the lack of a clear alternative in the liberal party means ol’ putrid Joe would still be the heavy favorite to be on the ballot again if he actually runs.
No current poll should frighten Donald Trump. But if the downward trends continue, it’s close to panic time.
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