Donald Trump Will Lose in So Many Ways in 2024
A few thoughts about that NYT/Siena poll that caused such a kerfuffle.
Every once in a while the political cognoscenti latches onto a particular poll result, either because it confirms their priors or seems to suggest new ones. This week, for example, the New York Times/Siena poll of GOP primary voters released on Monday prompted much discussion for five reasons:
The NYT/Siena polls are generally thought to be of extremely high quality;
The poll shows that, “Former President Donald J. Trump is dominating his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, leading his nearest challenger, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, by a landslide 37 percentage points nationally among the likely Republican primary electorate,” according to Shane Goldmacher’s writeup. This confirms the pre-existing theory that Ron DeSantis is flailing at the “running for president” thing;
Goldmacher found a truly insane quote from a 69-year old MAGA dude from Somersworth, N.H. that seems to crystallize the GOP vibe right now: “He might say mean things and make all the men cry because all the men are wearing your wife’s underpants and you can’t be a man anymore. You got to be a little sissy and cry about everything. But at the end of the day, you want results. Donald Trump’s my guy. He’s proved it on a national level.” Just a great, utterly demented quote!1
Trump’s dominance being confirmed at the same time that his legal troubles mount can create another few cycles of “Trump continues to dominate the GOP” discussion and hand-wringing — basically, variations of this Politico story by Natalie Allison;
Trump’s dominance in this poll feeds the low-level existential threat anxiety that many American feel about a possible Trump 2024 general election victory. See also: Harry Enten’s recent CNN analysis of Trump’s unprecedented polling strength, and the Washington Post’s story about concerns regarding Biden’s soft support among African-Americans.
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With all that said… I will confess to feeling more sanguine about the poll results that others. Within the GOP, the results are great for Trump, but the hard-working staff here at Drezner’s World still holds to everything that was said in this column from early June.2 Let’s see how Trump handles the combination of continued court losses and the inevitable non-DeSantis challenger who gains momentum from the debates or the polls or whatnot.
What about the general election? I suppose I would fret more about Enten’s analysis if it was not for the fact that Enten closed his column by warning, “general election polling, unlike primary polling, is not predictive at this point. Things can most certainly change.”3 Sounds like I can downgrade it, then!
More significantly, the NYT/Siena poll shows two things about the GOP: Trump commands a solidly loyal bloc but there is another 20-25% bloc that sure seems like they will not be voting for Trump in November 2024. Goldmacher wrote:
The truly anti-Trump faction of the Republican electorate appears to hover near one in four G.O.P. voters, hardly enough to dethrone him. Only 19 percent of the electorate said Mr. Trump’s behavior after his 2020 defeat threatened American democracy. And only 17 percent see the former president as having committed any serious federal crimes, despite his indictment by a federal grand jury on charges of mishandling classified documents and his receipt of a so-called target letter in the separate election interference case being brought by the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith.
There’s also a second group of voters who probably won’t support Mr. Trump. They represent about one-quarter of the primary electorate and they say they’re not considering him in the primary. These voters tend to be educated, affluent, moderate, and they’re often more than just Trump skeptics. A majority of these voters view him unfavorably, say he’s committed crimes and don’t even back him in the general election against President Biden, whether that’s because they actually prefer Mr. Biden or simply wouldn’t vote.
The fundamental thing I keep coming back to on Trump 2024 is that even if the four indictments inspires his MAGA base to cleave more closely to him, he cannot win against a conventional rival unless he appeals somehow to moderate Republicans and independents. And he is congenitally incapable of doing that, as the 2022 midterms helped to demonstrate. Add a pretty decent economy and a fading immigration issue into the mix and Trump does not look strong at all. He looks weak. So weak.
“Trump 2024: Not For Little Sissies Who Wear Their Wife’s Underpants!” is a slogan that writes itself.