A lengthy Politico op-ed published on February 9 suggests that the Republican Party is beginning to “plot” against former President Donald Trump, with big donors reportedly worried that former President Donald Trump will win a crowded Republican presidential primary with a plurality of the vote – just as he did in 2016.
(Subscribe to 19FortyFive‘s New YouTube Channel here.)
The piece, which cites donors and GOP fundraisers, argues that many in the party believe that Republican candidates may refrain from staying in the race too long in the hopes of a Donald Trump alternative beating the former president in a head-to-head race.
Bob Vander Plaats, president of the conservative advocacy group The Family Leader, told Politico that he is speaking with all potential candidates about not staying in the race for longer than necessary,
And while some big names in the GOP may well be plotting, planning, and thinking about how the Republicans can win in 2024 without Trump on board, many Republican voters are still firmly on the Trump Train.
“Do not listen to your consultants, who have a vested interest in you staying in. I can help you decide if you should stay in or not,” Vander Plaats said.
The influential Iowa conservative insisted that every candidate he speaks to agrees “right away” when approached about the matter, though even if the race comes down to just Trump and one popular contender – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis perhaps – they’ll still be up against the primary voters who, at least for now, seem to want Trump.
Primary Voters Want Trump – At Least For Now
A Morning Consult survey from early February puts former President Donald Trump firmly in the lead, even when respondents are asked if they would prefer to back a hypothetical DeSantis candidacy.
The survey put Trump’s support at a substantial 49%, with DeSantis – who has yet to confirm his intention to run – trailing behind at 31%.
Even with Nikki Haley’s campaign announcement expected next week, just 3% of Republican primary voters said they would back her as the next candidate, with former Vice President Mike Pence beating her by four additional points.
Assuming that DeSantis, Pence, and Haley all announce their intentions to run for president – and that could happen very soon – Trump is in a good position among Republican primary voters.
DeSantis, the most Trump-like alternative of all prospective candidates, can’t beat Trump even with the backing of Mike Pence and Haley voters.
And if Ted Cruz backers – all 2% of them – opt for Trump over DeSantis, even a head-to-head battle between the former president and the governor of Florida would see Trump winning by a small margin.
That being said, this is just one poll, and the race has barely begun. Trump has a lot to gain and a lot to lose, and if he can remind Republican voters why they chose him in the first place – as well as his many conservative victories in the White House before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic – he could find himself the victor all over again.
But it won’t be without a battle perhaps even more vicious than the primary before last.
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.