Thursday, April 18, 2024

Should We Believe The USA Today/Suffolk Trump/DeSantis Poll?

The position I’ve taken is that it isn’t time for Republican voters, conservatives or anybody on the Right to worry about the 2024 election cycle. There are far too many more important, intervening things on our national plate than whether Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis bears the GOP standard in the next presidential race.

Most important among them right this minute, as Jeff Crouere noted yesterday, is who’s going to run the Republican National Committee. Ronna Romney McDaniel has been a complete failure as the party’s leader, having overseen the 2018 midterm disaster, the 2020 presidential election and its attendant disasters and the 2022 midterm Red Fizzle.

Replacing McDaniel with someone who will get ahead of the various ways Democrats have begun to torch the GOP on electoral process, from early voting to mail-in balloting to ballot harvesting to the somewhat shameless methods of cheating they’ve instituted, and who can find a way to shepherd resources to Republican candidates who need them, is the most important thing.

But it may be that to fix the RNC you’re going to need a de-facto party leader who’ll be the GOP nominee. Maybe the 2024 race is unavoidable even now.

Certainly it’s attracting enough attention that it’s being polled. And that fact isn’t simply a reflection of the media attempting to forge a split among Republican voters and then exploit that fissure to destroy whoever the nominee might be.

Most people on the Right can see such antics coming a mile away. Which makes the numbers in the latest USA Today/Suffolk poll interesting even given the obligatory cautions.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is fast emerging as the one to beat in the 2024 presidential race – he leads former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, an early election poll suggests.

The new USA Today/Suffolk University survey shows that a majority of GOP voters want Trump to pass the torch to the 44-year-old Republican governor – despite having declared his own third White House campaign last month.

And while the ex-president trails Biden in a theoretical head-to-head rematch, DeSantis holds a narrow lead over the Democrat of about four points.

The Florida governor is coming off of a double-digit landslide victory in the 2022 midterm elections, decisively winning another term after just narrowly defeating Democrat Andrew Gillum in 2018.

DeSantis saw his national GOP star rise over the last two years of the Biden administration as a vocal critic of the Democratic president’s policies.

He’s also waged war on Disney for criticizing his anti-LGBTQ legislation that critics dubbed ‘Don’t Say Gay,’ and sent a plane full of Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in a show of defiance over the border crisis.

Tuesday’s poll suggests that 65 percent of Republicans and right-leaning voters want DeSantis to run for president in 2024 – while less than a quarter said the opposite.

Trump, in contrast, had 60 percent of GOP voters pulling for him to mount a third campaign. Now that he has, as of Tuesday, just 47 percent of people want him to do so.

That’s compared to 45 percent of GOP voters who said they don’t want him to run.

While DeSantis has not confirmed he’ll seek the White House in 2024 – preferring to say he was focused on Florida – his refusal to rule out a GOP primary challenge to Trump has infuriated the ex-president.

In that hypothetical scenario, DeSantis led Trump by a whopping 23 percentage points – 56 percent for the governor compared to just a third for Trump.

Against Biden, DeSantis is projected to run a closer race. 

While neither potential candidate nabs a majority, DeSantis eked out a small lead of 47 points. Biden’s support faltered at 43 percent.

The margin is similar to the commander-in-chief’s lead against Trump if the two were to face each other again in 2024.

Biden’s support comes out to 47 percent, while Trump trails with 40 percent among all likely voters, according to the poll.

There are a couple of things to remember before you get too torqued up about these poll results.

First, the RealClear polling average on a Trump/DeSantis primary battle still favors Trump by double digits. So this could well be an outlier, if perhaps a signifier of a trend.

And second, Trump has said he’s running. DeSantis has said no such thing. In fact, DeSantis would, according to Florida law, have to resign the governorship of the state in order to get into the 2024 presidential race. His second term as Florida governor won’t end until January of 2027. There will likely be a bill brought, and just as likely passed, in the Florida legislature’s regular session next spring which would eliminate the requirement that DeSantis resign from office should he opt to run for president, but the earliest DeSantis would sign that bill – assuming it went through committee markup and straight to floor votes in the House and Senate – would be late March.

What that means is DeSantis will have nothing to say about a presidential run for at least three months. Instead you’ll hear a lot from him about what they’re doing in Florida, and that’s going to sound a lot different than what you’ll hear from Trump.

Trump is going to consistently remind people that the electoral system is broken and that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, which more and more people are going to believe as the Twitter Files scandal continues to cascade forth and the public agrees that the ruling elite effectively staged a coup against him by hiding relevant information from public view if not outright stuffing ballot boxes.

The question is, does the creation of a consensus around a stolen election afford the creator a reward from the voting public?

An answer is not yet in evidence, and frankly, we would lean toward no. For Trump to monetize the recognition that between the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story and the ballot-harvesting shenanigans the 2020 election was foul, he also has to convince the public that America is unduly suffering under Joe Biden and – more importantly – he can fix it.

That requires a sunnier demeanor than Trump has shown of late. Outrage won’t do the trick. He has to reassure people that a second Trump term would be less acrimonious and even more successful than the first one was.

And you can’t get there with mean tweets, or with easily-misinterpreted wild statements about “terminating rules” to include the Constitution so that the 2020 election gets a do-over. That’s going to be counterproductive and Trump has to be more disciplined.

Because if he isn’t, and if he makes statements people regard as unpresidential – or at a minimum if he comes off as somebody who’s whiny and not in charge of his own scene, which Trump at times has been since the beginning of 2020, then Trump is going to continue to fade in the polls.

And since there really is no third option out there for the GOP at present, and while there is talent on the bench the Glenn Youngkins and Tom Cottons of the world have such a long way to go as to be irrelevant for the time being, if Trump fades then the whole party will be turning to DeSantis.

If he’s able to hold off until the end of the 2023 Florida legislative session in May, or even beyond that point into July or August, DeSantis might just find himself the nominee by acclimation by next fall.

Or Trump will have re-established himself in control of the party by then.

Either way, it’s unlikely that there will be a race between Trump and DeSantis when the 2024 primaries begin.