Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

- Advertisement -

Analysis | Trump is not leading alone, he is leading with those who are more likely to vote


Just because Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) is not a registered candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination doesn’t mean he’s not actively campaigning. In fact, the opposite is true: DeSantis’ transparent machinations toward a formal bid now include directly contrasting his record with that of former President Donald Trump.

So the much-anticipated clash between the two Republican frontrunners is now underway. And right now, it’s Trump — the man whose latest bid for the presidency culminated in a violent attempt to undo his loss — who’s at the helm for the nomination. DeSantis’ gains over Trump have flipped in recent polls, and in tandem, Trump’s lead has expanded to include some of the voting blocs most likely to actually vote in the primary.

Sign up for How To Read This Chart, a weekly data newsletter from Philip Bump

Regardless, Trump’s allies spent Wednesday morning expressing (or, in some cases, enacting) outrage against DeSantis. The governor had the nerve to answer interviewer Piers Morgan’s questions about Trump with some mild criticism, answers that Morgan and Trumpworld each called explosive for different reasons. For example, DeSantis said his administration style was “no daily drama,” about the lightest criticism you can offer of Trump. The front page of the New York Post summarized the interview as “RON HITS DON”.

This issue of drama and Trump’s boxing style is not new for his opponents to raise. It’s one that many Republican voters identify as something they loathe. However, the response to the Morgan interview also shows how it works for Trump: He will now claim that DeSantis attacked him so he has no choice but to hit back, a standard Trump tactic designed to reduce political costs of mud throwing.

DeSantis has chosen a different tactic. As he told Morgan, “It’s not important to me to fight people on social media.” That’s because he’s long outsourced the social media fights to the likes of his assistant Christina Pushaw, who, because she’s not DeSantis herself, can be much more aggressive and still keep DeSantis at an appropriate distance.

Overall, the Morgan interview clips that have been made public reveal a central part of the DeSantis-Trump feud: there isn’t really much difference between them. Trump is not a man of detailed policy proposals, while DeSantis has largely spent the past two years as governor trying to codify right-wing culture warfare into law. There is a debate between the two about the federal government’s pandemic response, but that’s about it.

What the Republican primaries probably seem to come down to is whether voters want Trump or someone else. For months, DeSantis has been the go-to non-Trump option. But as Trump threw bombs at him, that position has eroded.

Monmouth University released new polls Tuesday showing Trump has a double-digit lead in the Republican primary. This is an improvement from their February poll, which tied Trump and DeSantis.

What is striking when you consider how voter attitudes have shifted over the past month is that Trump has seen a surge in his longtime support: members of the party, strong conservatives, those without college degrees. Among other groups (republican independents, graduates, etc.) his position improved more subtly.

Also note that among those groups where Trump has less support, a higher percentage of respondents identify one of a myriad of other Republicans as their primary choice for the nomination. Like, among independents leaning Republican, twice as many respondents choose a non-Trump and non-DeSantis candidate than is the case with Republicans.

We see a similar pattern in Quinnipiac University polls from February and this month. With groups where Trump’s support is weaker, more respondents are choosing a non-Trump, non-DeSantis option. That’s a problem for DeSantis for one simple reason. If the race comes down to Trump versus non-Trump, there are several billion people who fit into the latter category. There is only one former president Donald Trump.

You will notice that the Quinnipiac poll shows a different movement than the Monmouth poll. Here Trump is holding his own with his core supporters while winning with those more favorable to DeSantis. The end result is the same: Trump fares better with more conservative voters and with true Republicans.

This is important considering who votes in the Republican primary. American National Election Studies (ANES) polls conducted during the 2012 presidential election show that more conservative voters and strong Republicans are more likely to report voting in the primary. Republican primary voters with college degrees were more likely to vote than those with only a high school education.

Note that the chart above also shows how those groups ultimately cast their vote. Among the most conservative voters, the vote was roughly evenly split between the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney, and other Republicans. Compare that to what happened in 2016, when Trump won the nomination.

That year, more moderate primary voters and independents were more likely to vote for non-Trump candidates. But partly because Trump fared better with more conservative voters more likely to turn out and partly because more people voted, Trump prevailed despite the skepticism of more centrist primary voters. More than half of the Republicans and skewed independents who supported non-Trump candidates in 2016 had college degrees. But Trump won the nomination anyway, ultimately earning less than half of the total votes cast.

The anti-Trump vote in 2016 then closely resembled the anti-Trump vote of today. The difference? Trump now generally has more support than at the beginning of 2016.

There is a lot of time before voting starts. DeSantis could consolidate more non-Trump support, although a significant fall in his position now will leave some voters scrambling for a more viable non-Trump option. It’s theoretically possible that the dynamics of the race will shift in other ways as well, from potential impeachment to some sort of policy differentiation with Trump actually pulling away his support in the long run.

Right now, Trump’s position is much like that of 2016. The main difference since that point is that Americans have a better idea of ​​what Trump would do if he came back to power. For a large number of Republican primary voters, this is not a deterrent.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.