What to Make of Trump's Growing Lead Over DeSantis & Will it Last After the Indictment
Before Donald Trump's indictment this week, he had started to build a substantial lead over FL Gov. Ron DeSantis and the other announced and unannounced candidates for the GOP's presidential nomination. His growing lead over DeSantis was a bit unexpected as the FL Governor seemed to have all the momentum just a few months ago.
After Republicans stumbled in November and Donald Trump received most of the blame for the GOP's less-than-stellar showing in the midterm elections many believed that the former President would be cast aside in favor of DeSantis. And early polling seemed to suggest that. However, four months later, Trump is roaring back and increasing his lead over DeSantis in nearly every poll that's released.
A new Yahoo/YouGov post-indictment poll finds Trump crushing DeSantis by 26 percentage points [57% to 31%] in a one-on-one contest. A Fox News poll released Thursday found that Trump has doubled his lead in the Republican primary since February and is up by 30 points over DeSantis, 54% to 24%. No one else hit double digits with Mike Pence in third with 6%. The most recent Harvard/Harris poll has Trump leading with 50% of Republicans and DeSantis at 24%, with Nicki Haley and Mike Pence in single digits. The newest Morning Consult poll of Republicans nationally found Donald Trump leading the GOP primary field with 54%, while DeSantis slipped to 26%. More importantly, the trendline across all polls of the 2024 GOP nomination shows Trump gaining and DeSantis fading.
So, what to make of Trump's growing advantage? DeSantis supporters say that it's way too early to put much stock in polling data, especially because their candidate hasn't even announced yet. But, some commentators argue that DeSantis's post-reelection bounce is wearing off and Republicans have forgotten or forgiven Trump for saddling the party with a bunch of horrible Senate candidates in the midterm elections. Still others say that Trump's attacks on DeSantis are starting to do some damage,
New York Times: "Donald J. Trump and his allies have blasted him as “Meatball Ron,” “Ron DeSanctimonious,” a “groomer,” disloyal and a supporter of cutting entitlement programs. Now, he’s getting criticism from many mainstream conservatives for calling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “territorial dispute.”
The attacks have probably hurt DeSantis, especially the reminder that the Florida Governor once supported deep cuts to Social Security. But there is another reason for Trump's strength in the polls.
MAGA Republicans still represent almost a third of the party and are some of its most energized voters. Some may have drifted away from Trump after the midterm debacle, but the former President is still the real deal to them, the individual that best represents their frustrations with a changing America. They mostly agree with DeSantis's anti-woke, culture war agenda, but it's a rather thin gruel compared to Trump's bombastic attacks on immigration, the deep state, criminal justice reform, environmentalists, and US foreign policy.
DeSantis's long-term problem in the race may be his desire to co-op the MAGA base without offending more moderate Republicans or becoming too untethered from reality. Trump doesn't have such concerns and his fans love that he strays far and wide from the truth and regularly tweaks Mitch McConnell and other establishment Republicans. Trump views politics as performance art; it's not what you say, but how you say it and what it means to the audience. We wrote about this after he won the 2016 election.
Illuminate: "A recent study reported by USA Today helps to explain [Trump's support]. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon and MIT found that "Trump supporters were more enthusiastic in their support of him to the extent that they justified Trump’s lies as a form of "symbolic protest." In other words, it's not what he says, but what the lie "represents."
So, the advantage that Trump has over DeSantis, Pence, Haley, Pompeo, et al is that everyone expects Trump to lie and make outrageous statements; BS is his brand. Meanwhile, his competitors will be held to a higher standard if they have any hope of attracting mainstream Republicans and independents. Consider this; DeSantis has already had to flip-flop on his statements regarding Ukraine support after condemnation from mainstream Republicans. Trump would have relished such attacks by the likes of Liz Cheney and Sen. Marco Rubio. Their attacks would have been a badge of honor to Trump.
In the end, Trump fully expects that his MAGA base will be more energized to vote in the primaries than supporters of his more vanilla competitors. And, it's quite possible that he doesn't much care if his nomination sinks any chance the GOP might have of winning the White House or Senate in 2024. It's his party until he willingly passes the torch.
Trump's indictment probably doesn't change that calculation very much. He will use it as more proof that the Washington establishment, the "Elite," the "deep state," or whatever we are calling it this week, fear his candidacy and are trying to derail it. His base will rally around the MAGA flag and his Republican opponents will be forced to support his cause or be labeled as traitors and RINOs. The indictment probably locks in Trump's lead for the foreseeable future and even a conviction may not be enough to sink his candidacy. And DeSantis along with the rest of America will be held hostage to the newest chapter in Trump's seemingly endless and increasingly tedious reality show.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content