Donald Trump is at his weakest political position in years


Former President Donald Trump is trying again. He announced last week that he was trying to become only the second man (after Grover Cleveland) to be elected to non-consecutive terms as US president.

Trump’s move comes at a time when his political brand is at its weakest point since his first presidential bid in 2015-16. He remains a force to be reckoned with in GOP circles, and news that the Justice Department has appointed a special counsel to oversee investigations related to the former president could spark a rallying effect around Trump among republicans. Nevertheless, it is clear that his power within the party has diminished after the 2022 midterm elections.

The easiest way to tell that Trump’s position isn’t what it once was is to look at the reaction to his 2024 presidential announcement. Many Republican lawmakers and conservative media personalities gave him a big yawn.

Trump’s announcement won him the support of very few elected officials on Capitol Hill. It was much more reminiscent of his first run in 2015-16, when Trump initially received little support from congressional lawmakers. The difference this time, of course, is that Trump is the former leader of the party most Republican members of Congress endorsed in 2020 instead of a political neophyte as he was seven years ago.

Instead, there appear to be about as many senators (one) already supporting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as there are for Trump. This is important because approvals from party officials have always been correlated with the success of presidential primaries.

Will DeSantis race in 2024? Politico reporter reviews some factors

I should note that the lack of endorsements didn’t stop Trump in 2016, and maybe not this time either.

Trump’s first offer may have been an aberration, however. He faced more than a dozen competitors who shared the support of the conservative political class. That’s especially a problem in Republican primaries, which tend to be winner-take-all (or most) affairs, unlike Democratic primaries, which award delegates proportionally. Trump needed well under half the GOP vote to rack up a lot of delegates quickly in 2016.

He might not get the same divided opposition in the 2024 cycle. Trump’s only obvious competitor at this point is DeSantis.

The rise of the Florida governor is perhaps the most significant development in the Republican field of 2024. Trump still leads in a number of national primary polls, but DeSantis is voting better in early national polls than anyone. what a non-Trump candidate for much of the 2016 primary cycle.

In his home state of Florida, DeSantis beats Trump outright in nearly every poll. In CNN’s exit poll of 2022 Florida midterm voters, more Republicans wanted DeSantis to run in 2024 than Trump.

DeSantis’ advantage in Florida is notable for a number of reasons, besides the fact that the state contains a boatload of Republican delegates, who will likely be awarded the winner.

First, Florida is also Trump’s home state, and it’s the only place the two men are on equal footing in terms of name recognition. DeSantis’ lead is a sign that as Republicans around the country get to know him better, they might grow closer to him. (DeSantis tends to have higher favorable ratings than Trump nationally among Republicans who know both men.)

Second, Trump won Florida in the 2016 primaries over home state Senator Marco Rubio. The fact that DeSantis is now overtaking him in the polls is arguably an indication that Trump is in a weaker position than he was in 2016.

But Trump’s problems go beyond party officials and polls. Trump was able to defy conventional wisdom in 2016 because he received outsized media attention. It basically ousted the competition.

This time it won’t be so easy. I previously pointed out that DeSantis has shown a knack for generating a lot of media attention on Fox News. Trump’s name was only mentioned on page 26 of the New York Post run by Rupert Murdoch (whose editorial page leans to the right) the day after his 2024 announcement. Murdoch also runs the company that owns Fox News.

And if Trump wins the primary, he still has to win a general election. It won’t be easy, as the 2022 mid-terms showed.

I noted last week that Trump’s presence was one of the main reasons Democrats did surprisingly well in the midterm elections. By making so much headlines and acting like a near-incumbent, Trump has helped undo what is normally a major advantage for the opposition party in midterm elections with an unpopular incumbent in the White House.

Now, you could have imagined a universe in which Trump’s larger-than-life personality might have come in handy if he was popular.

Instead, Trump’s favorable rating is at one of its lowest points in five years: 39%, according to the 2022 exit poll. That compares to a 46% favorable rating in the poll. 2020 Exit and a 45% Jobs Approval Rating in the 2018 Exit Poll.

In a presidential election where Trump’s name is actually on the ballot, you can imagine his unpopularity being even more of a factor.

We already know from history that it won’t be easy for Trump. While incumbent presidents (like Joe Biden) are at a disadvantage mid-term, they are enjoying their tenure in presidential elections. Elected incumbents win more than 60% of the time when running for another term.

The bottom line is that Trump has a tough climb ahead of him for 2024 — in both a GOP primary and a general election. He can certainly win a second term, but the odds are currently stacked against him.


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