There are few things the corporate media salivates over more than a potential matchup between former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — thoughts of the two Republican heavyweights taking each other out surely dancing in their heads as they lie awake at night.
At the same time, the Republican Party could have a “Trump problem,” that being that while some in the party are eager to move away from the contentious politics the former president ushered in, his loyal base of supporters are pro-Trump more than they are pro-GOP.
All of which surfaced in a new poll — the caveat here being that polling has devolved into more of a means to steer opinion rather than reflect opinion. The poll from The Bulwark and North Star Opinion Research showed that 28 percent of Republican primary voters who back Trump say they’ll support him even if he ran as an independent in the general election.
“A large majority of GOP voters is ready to move on from Donald Trump. But a devoted minority might not let them,” Bulwark reported.
“Donald Trump has slipped to his lowest point since he emerged on the political scene almost eight years ago. He remains a formidable force, to be sure, with a lock on approximately 30 percent of likely Republican primary and caucus voters nationally. But a majority of the GOP is ready to move on,” wrote Sarah Longwell, who founded Bulwark in 2018.
According to the opinion website that was launched with the support of Never-Trump GOP turncoat Bill Kristol and Charlie Sykes, “the vast majority” of focus group participants surveyed like DeSantis, whom they routinely describe as “Trump without the baggage.”
The results they shared are not consistent with polling in general, which typically shows Trump with a commanding lead in hypothetical 2024 match-ups:
- In a head-to-head match, DeSantis leads Trump 52 percent to 30 percent, with 15 percent undecided and 3 percent saying they would not vote if those were the only two options.
- With DeSantis, Trump, and “another candidate,” DeSantis got 44 percent, Trump got 28 percent, and the generic “another candidate” got 10 percent, with 17 percent undecided.
- In a 10-candidate field, DeSantis got 39 percent, Trump 28 percent, Mike Pence 9 percent, Nikki Haley and Liz Cheney 4 percent each, and five other candidates registered at 1 percent. In this scenario, 13 percent of the respondents were undecided.
Whether the whopping lead DeSantis holds here is more suggestive than reflective is a whole other matter, but if the popular governor decided to get down in the dirt with Trump and come out on top the GOP could be in trouble — few Republicans emerge from said mud unscathed and while there are reports that DeSantis is preparing for a 2024 run, he has yet to show an eagerness to get down and dirty with the former president, who has been lobbing his share of barbs lately.
As Bulwark noted, the “Always Trump” faction of the Republican Party “ride-or-die for Trump 2024.”
“And they are why the GOP could be sleepwalking into another Donald Trump catastrophe,” Longwell wrote. “Because even though Trump is as weak as he’s ever been, even though he is beset by legal peril, and even though there are alternative candidates turning the heads of a large majority of GOP primary voters (and donors), Trump still has an awful lot going for him.”
Key among that list is “a devoted base that will follow him on an independent run and potentially split the GOP vote,” she opined.
Rest assured, Democrats and their media allies will do everything possible to bring about this potential outcome, but the real angle at play here could very well be an attempt to reinforce the belief that Trump is losing his grip on the GOP.
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