He is not used to Republicans criticizing him except for various Never-Trumpers in the party. Political types want to back a winner, and more former loyalists are seeing Trump as weakened.
He has dined out with anti-Semites. His legal woes are mounting. Trump is also significantly lagging in the polls in a hypothetical matchup with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Trump trails against President Joe Biden in some surveys.
Trump’s Opposition Is Not Intimidated
The decision to declare his candidacy for president early was supposed to clear out the field, but that didn’t work.
No other Republican has officially announced their candidacy, but some presidential hopefuls are circling above, visiting key states, speaking at conferences, taking polls, and meeting with donors.
Social Media Exposure Is Not What It Was
Trump has no command of social media as he did in 2016 and 2020. His fledgling Truth Social startup has been a bust. He will likely not return to Twitter and his ban from Facebook may be extended. Elon Musk has taken his place as a center-right Twitter provocateur.
Ron DeSantis Is Moving Upward in Polls
But it is the polls that are so worrisome.
Trump is clearly losing to DeSantis. A recent USA Today/Suffolk poll has him down 56-33 and a Wall Street Journal survey showed DeSantis in the lead 52-38, while the Florida governor has not even mentioned the presidency. Expect DeSantis to decide on running in the spring.
DeSantis Has Rhetoric and Results
It seems Republicans want youth and vigor. DeSantis, aged only 44, is seen as someone who not only fights the Left with rhetoric, but also can react with deeds resulting in concrete policies through administrative order or legislation – can do abilities that Trump lacked during his presidency.
Don’t Count Trump Out
It is important not to underestimate Trump, however.
He has been discounted since he announced his first run. Trump has diehard fans. He has a national political network and can always fill a rally of adoring supporters. He will fundraise from mega-donors and the grassroots. Trump also has an amazing ability to shrug off bad news. He seems to revel in negative media coverage and thrives as a victim. Controversy and mistakes do not faze him.
What Happened to His Conservative Media Champions?
I was one of the only political scientists to predict the rise of Trump.
I predicted he would win the primary and picked him to beat Hillary Clinton in the general election in 2016. One of the reasons I was confident in my choices was that Trump had total support of Conservative talk radio hosts and their listeners such as Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and Sean Hannity.
Now Limbaugh is dead, Savage is mad about Trump’s flirtation with anti-Semitism, and Hannity is lukewarm. These are not good signs.
Watch Out, You May Get a Nickname
But Trump has not started his savage criticism of those who are running against him that has been so effective in the past. He has given DeSantis a nickname – “DeSanctimonious.” Expect more of his trademark nicknames and derision against future candidates who run against him. This could change the polls.
Plus, the more Republicans who run for president, the more the vote is split up. Trump may not win a majority, but he could achieve a plurality of votes.
Where’s the Red Meat?
Trump has also not started to crisscross the country with rallies and notable positive media statements. He hasn’t rolled out any policy plans or announced endorsements. It’s somewhat of a ghost campaign at this point.
Is His Support Stuck in the 30s?
Elections are about the future and his belief that the 2020 election was stolen is old news. Many Republicans who play in presidential politics are ready to move on. Will Trump be seen as a winner or as a loser? This perception by the consultant class and political operatives will be important in states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.
Trump hates the establishment, but he will have to unite the party to win. That means a coalition of different types of Republicans will need to be on board. He should have about 30 percent of Republicans as his base of support. That may not be enough to succeed. If he doesn’t achieve the Republican nomination, he could run as an independent and really throw a wrench into the race.
Overall, Trump is down but not out. He is in poor shape now but that could change in the next 12 months. DeSantis has not declared. Others are not ready to announce. Trump has his loyal base. A large field will splinter the votes and Trump could still win a plurality. On the flip side, Trump has seen better days.
He is a weakened leader, and he is old news. Trump is stuck in the past and the GOP is ready for someone fresh. This may make a second Trump presidency impossible.
Expert Biography: Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.