Sunday, September 03, 2023

The One Conclusion Trump's GOP Opponents Must Accept Right Now

By Matt Vespa |

AP Photo

Donald Trump was prophetic when he told supporters he was one indictment away from clinching the 2024 Republican nomination. Trump said this when the former president was already saddled with three trials. It was a foregone conclusion that he would be charged in the Georgia election probe, which became a RICO case in May. The man never ceases to amaze in disregarding every rule in modern campaigning and coming out on top. It started with his breaking of the ‘not wearing a funny hat’ protocol to boasting about legal entanglements that would have destroyed any other candidate’s presidential ambitions for the nomination in years past.

Despite this legal drama, Trump sits atop the GOP field comfortably—and that won’t change. The 2024 race, if you could call it that, could be over after Iowa at this rate. Most of the Republican field running have no path to the nomination. It’s either a vanity exercise or tryouts for cabinet positions. The first GOP debate was livelier than expected, but the only man who could take on Trump—DeSantis—is stuck in the mud. Months after his announcement, his movement in the polls has been indiscernible. 

Pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson’s piece in The New York Times outlined why this is the case, and you don’t need to be a seasoned GOP operative to know why Trump is king right now: the base still really likes him (via NYT): 

Given that many Republicans have such an apocalyptic view of the future, believing that the future of the country hangs in the balance if their party does not win the 2024 election, you might assume that Republicans would prioritize electability as they choose a nominee and seek a safe, steady standard-bearer to face President Biden next November. And you might assume, as many pundits and commentators do, that Republicans would begin to consider that nominating Donald Trump, with all his troubles and legal peril, would be too great a risk. 

But the belief that the other party would be simply disastrous for the nation is feeding the deep confidence that one’s own side is going to prevail in 2024. 

What does this mean for Republicans? It means that G.O.P. voters see Mr. Biden as eminently beatable, and they think most Americans see him as they do. Given that, most Republicans aren’t looking to be rescued from Donald Trump. The fact is, they really do like him, and at this point they think he’s their best shot. 


Any notion that Republicans ought to turn the page [on Trump], lest they face another electoral defeat, largely evaporated. And the multitude of criminal indictments against Mr. Trump have not shaken the support of Republicans for him, but have instead seemingly galvanized them. 

In our focus group of 11 Republican voters in early primary states this month, Times Opinion recruited a range of likely primary voters and caucusgoers to weigh in on the state of the race. They were not universally smitten with Donald Trump; some described him as “troubled,” “arrogant” or a “train wreck.” About half of our participants said they were interested in seeing a strong competitor to Mr. Trump within the party. 

But the argument that Donald Trump won’t be able to defeat Joe Biden? Not a single participant thought that Mr. Trump — or any Republican, really — would lose to Mr. Biden. In polling by CBS News, the ability to beat Joe Biden is one of the top qualities Republican primary voters say they are looking for, and they think Mr. Trump is the best poised to deliver on that result. Only 9 percent of likely Republican primary voters think Mr. Trump is a “long shot” to beat Mr. Biden, and more than six in 10 think Mr. Trump is a sure bet against Mr. Biden. 


In an otherwise strong debate performance last week, when Nikki Haley argued that “we have to face the fact that Trump is the most disliked politician in America — we can’t win a general election that way,” the reaction from the crowd was decidedly mixed. This isn’t to say that such an argument can’t become more successful as the primary season goes on, as Mr. Trump’s legal woes (and legal bills) continue to mount and as the alternatives to Mr. Trump gain greater exposure. 

But for now they think that Mr. Biden is both enormously destructive and eminently beatable. They are undeterred by pleas from party elites who say Mr. Trump is taking the Republican Party to the point of no return.

FiveThirtyEight even had a piece suggesting Trump’s support in the primary had dropped. Still, the declines in the polls analyzed are in the low single-digits, well within the margin of error, and he still sits miles ahead of the competition. I have no doubt Trump’s PACs will raise money to pay for those legal bills, which isn’t a good indicator of a campaign’s health, but the base, for now, is animated and ready to boot Biden next year. That intensity isn’t going to subside. What should be put to rest is this notion that Trump’s legal woes will be enough to sway GOP primary voters away from the former president. I’ve heard this for weeks now about how the indictments could throw a wrench in Trump’s 2024 plans. If anything, his support is de facto entrenched, a lock for the nomination before even the first primary. And the legal drama is only reinvigorating his base of support. 

Are we at the point where we can say, “I’ve seen enough,” and call it? Unless something seismic happens, this race might be over. Can Trump survive all the charges, at least 100 at this point, filed against him? That’s putting the Teflon reputation to the test. In Georgia’s case, he can’t pardon himself over state charges, but that also doesn’t mean should something happen that he’s going to jail. Jonathan Turley threw a wet blanket on that liberal fantasy this month.