Is Donald Trump a Weight Around the GOP’s Neck? – The 2024 Presidential Election is underway and until Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis officially announces his bid for the Republican Party nomination, the main contenders for president are Joe Biden and Donald J. Trump.
Biden has his own problems he’s facing. Although, no one has such an unpredictable course to victory as former President Donald Trump.
If the GOP nominates DeSantis, he beats Biden by five points. In other polls, DeSantis loses to Biden significantly.
Trump is Dependent on Independents (Who Hate Him)
One thing is certain, though, and that is the animosity that most independent voters have toward Trump.
Sure, independents can be prodded to vote for the more passionate candidate. They are, by definition, not ideologues, and their views are, therefore, more malleable than those of solid Democratic or Republican Party voters.
Yet, in the Age of Trump (which we are still very much in, despite him being out of office for the last three years), independent voters have decided elections far more than the ideologues have. This was true of Trump’s only successful election, 2016. It was true of Trump’s defeat at the hands of Joe Biden in 2020.
While independents at times are blown in whatever direction the political winds blow, they are swayed by popular opinion and perception of candidates. Donald Trump’s perception, his political brand, is not good if one is trying to entice independents.
He galvanizes the GOP base like no other, but he has just the opposite effect on independents.
In repelling independent voters, Trump not only ensures that he will likely lose the 2024 Presidential Election (if he is the GOP nominee), but he will take the GOP down with him.
Trump Kills GOP Chances Down-Ballot in 2024
According to a WPA Intelligence poll released earlier this week, Donald Trump drags the down-ballot Republican races in 2024 by at least five points.
If Trump is not on the ballot in 2024, the GOP is tied with the DNC down ballot candidates.
A couple of quick caveats: the CEO of WPA Intelligence runs a pro-Ron DeSantis PAC (though the individual who oversees these WPA polls insists that the CEO doesn’t have a hand in the polling that WPA has performed) and, as Daniel McCarthy pointed out in an excellent essay recently, Trump faced similar bad polls in 2016. He still went on to win in 2016.
Yet, with all due respect to my Trump-supporting friends, Trump faced similarly bad polls in 2020…and he lost. Thus, these data points negate each other.
Anyway, we have a series of recent elections that indicates how Trump impacts the congressional races. In 2018, the more Trumpian the candidate was, the more likely they were to lose. In 2020, close associations to Donald Trump led to a GOP loss. Similarly, in 2022, the Trumpiest candidates were less likely to win.
It is true that the GOP won the House in 2022—but barely.
And the Republicans were supposed to sweep the floor with the Democrats. The main reason that the Republicans lost bigly in 2022 was because the Trump-appointed Supreme Court justices swung the court and overturned Roe v. Wade. That militated women voters throughout the country, who turned out to early vote their opposition to the Republicans in response to that Supreme Court ruling.
Sure, Trump cannot be directly blamed—and he has indicated he doesn’t agree with the extreme Right on an outright, national abortion ban—but voters associate that SCOTUS decision with Trump’s judicial picks. Enough independents and women voters do not want to see those policies replicated.
Therefore, by extension, being pro-Trump and being a down ballot candidate hurts the Republican Party.
At the same time, Republicans running for office cannot distance themselves from the forty-fifth president without being primaried by a Trumpian candidate. It’s a Catch-22. To get the Republican nomination in their race, the GOP candidate must run closely to Trump.
To win the General, though, being too close to the former president is the kiss of death. Glenn Youngkin, the dynamic Republican governor of Virginia (a purple state that leans blue these days) proved to be one of the few GOP leaders to strike the perfect balance between courting Trump’s voters while distancing himself from Trump.
Then there’s the matter of election issues.
Trump Needs to Drop the Stolen Election Bit
In 2016, Trump was stellar in picking the policies to back as an upstart, unconventional candidate.
Illegal immigration, border security, trade protectionism, and ending endless wars—all while preserving the Welfare State—were hugely popular and allowed for Trump to cleave just enough moderate voters away from Hillary Clinton to win that tight election.
But if the Democrats can define the debate in the upcoming election—as they did in 2018 and 2020—around women’s issues, minority rights, and the difference between Donald Trump (if the forty-fifth president is again the Republican nominee) and President Joe Biden, Trump is in for a competition.
This is especially so as Trump is already turning off independent voters with many of the themes that he’s begun touching on during his current campaign.
The WPA Intelligence poll found that Trump’s obsession with proving that Joe Biden and the Democrats stole the 2020 Election from him are highly damaging to the Trump Campaign. Yes, these claims galvanize Trump’s base. But they harm any Republican not named Trump, down ballot.
In the chaotic aftermath of the January 6 riots on Capitol Hill, there were still two Senate races to be determined. Before Trump went all-in on his stolen election claims, it looked as though the Republicans were going to win those Senate seats.
After January 6, Trump essentially convinced a sizable chunk of the Republican voters that coming out and electing those remaining Senate Republicans was a waste of time. After all, according to Trump, the election was the most dishonest election in history; they were rigged.
The Democrats were able to achieve a stunning majority in 2020 in Congress that they otherwise would not have. This is the danger of Trump and his fixation on the banal and hard-to-prove. There’s also the added problem of Trump’s legal woes.
Trump’s Legal Woes
The multiple legal cases arrayed against Trump—and the fact he has already been indicted in the Stormy Daniels hush money case as well as found liable for defamation and battery in the E. Jean Carroll case—have done little to hurt Trump in the Republican Primary.
Although, in the General Election those cases, as well as the Atlanta grand jury investigation into claims that Trump tried to steal the Georgia election in 2020 and the Washington, D.C.-based grand jury investigation into accusations that Trump mishandled classified documents, hurt Trump’s electoral appeal.
Trump was a dynamic figure in American politics. He was truly one-of-a-kind. The 2016 election was his year to bust all the norms that had, until then, governed our modern politics. And thank God he did because he defeated Hillary Clinton and forced the GOP to begin talking about issues that most Americans actually cared (rather than the esoteric theories that have driven Republican policy debates for decades).
But, Trump’s moment is over.
He partially blew it with his antics throughout his presidency. On the other hand, he was unfairly pursued and mistreated by a clearly corrupt Administrative State in Washington, D.C. that had been weaponized against him by his predecessor and the Democrats.
Sadly, though, that information is insufficient to make enough Americans vote for him again in 2024.
Donald Trump Is Chaotic Evil
Trump is simply too toxic in the eyes of many voters.
He damages the entire GOP brand. If, however, a different candidate was on the ballot—such as DeSantis—suddenly the GOP becomes competitive again. It’s not enough to stick with Trump because he “owns the Libs.” The party needs a victory in 2024 and not just in the presidential race, but down ballot as well. Trump’s presence on the top of the Republican automatically threatens that.
Even if Trump were to win again, because he’s so toxic to the GOP ticket, that’d just mean that Trump enters the White House for his second (and final) term as a lame duck. The Democrats will trounce the Republicans down ticket from Trump, leaving him isolated and exposed as president.
These are the considerations Republicans must consider before blindly supporting Trump for another go at the Oval Office.
A 19FortyFive Senior Editor, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (May 16), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.