Donald J. Trump hasn’t been part of a winning election since 2016.
Even then, his victory was tight.
He failed to win the popular vote but did win the all-important electoral vote. In 2016, Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Rodham Clinton (she got 65,853,514 votes to his 62,984,828 popular votes).
What this always meant was that Trump’s victory was tenuous at best.
He took power in a deeply divided nation that trended to the Left.
Because Trump was a true outsider of the political class, he had one shot at making a difference—and he blew it (of course, the constant attacks by the Democrats and their allies in the media and the Administrative State didn’t help).
Voters have not forgotten and will not forgive this failure when they head to the polls in 2024. And because Trump is such an unusual candidate for high office, most fence-sitting voters who might otherwise be inclined to vote for a generic Republican candidate because of how bad the US economy and its foreign policy is under President Joe Biden, will not vote for the GOP if Donald Trump is again their nominee.
A Tale in Favorability Ratings
Trump’s favorability rating never got above 41 percent as president, a whopping 11 points lower than the lowest presidential approval rating that Gallup Polls had ever tracked. When Trump exited office, after the caustic events of January 6, 2021, he had a measly 34 percent approval rating.
Today, Trump has a 39.3 percent approval rating. The forty-fifth president’s unfavorable rating is a whopping 56 percent.
Of course, within the GOP, Trump has consistently enjoyed a high approval rating. Although, in December of last year, a Quinnipiac Poll of Republican approval ratings for Trump indicated that his approval rating at that time of 70 percent vs. 20 percent unfavorable was Trump’s lowest.
Just a few months later, though, that has changed.
The recent indictments of Trump has caused Republican voters who were starting to look more favorably upon the potential 2024 campaign of Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis for president, to rally around Donald Trump.
Unfortunately for Trump, Republican voters are not the only voters he must win over. He needs them to get the GOP’s nomination in 2024. Although, the former president needs to win over more than just his “MAGA” base and the Republican voters.
For Trump to defeat the Democrats, he needs a broad-based coalition to flock to him. This isn’t 2016. He’s not running against a candidate that many view with malign suspicion.
Trump’s Diminishing Returns
President Joe Biden’s approval rating isn’t great. Although, it’s not terrible, considering that Biden is the worst president of my lifetime. This is because Trump does not resonate with voters outside of working-class and rural areas.
And these voters, sadly, are insufficient in number to swing an election. Trump was able to rejigger the electoral map in 2016 just enough to give him an unexpected victory. Yet, today, he is a known quantity. The forty-fifth president promised many things yet failed to deliver many of those promises.
Further, Trump himself has become a cultural litmus test. He divides more than he unites. We can point out that it was the Left who spent four years undermining his presidency and dividing the country because they loathed him so much—and they did—but it doesn’t negate the fact that Trump brings the worst out in many. This has a dispiriting effect on a large number of voters, who don’t want to rock their families and local communities by voting for a man who is so viscerally loathed by people in their local circles.
Do you want to lose a relationship with someone or risk a job interview because you voted for the mean Orange Man? Very often, those are the costs of supporting Trump. For many Americans who are already naturally averse to politics, it’s easier to either sit out the election or to simply go along with the overwhelming cultural preference for anyone other than Trump.
Trump’s behavior didn’t help either. People tolerated the tweeting while he was in office so long as the economy did well. Once the economy collapsed because of the COVID-19 pandemic that emanated from Wuhan, China, people’s tolerance waned.
What’s more, the racial issue became explosive in the summer of 2020 when the nation erupted into race riots over the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minn.
The coalition that voted against Trump was extremely diverse. Biden’s coalition was younger, blacker and browner, as well as decisively female than the coalition that supported Trump in 2020. More dangerously for Trump, he lost even among his own mostly white, working-class voting bloc.
White men without college educations did not show up to vote for Trump in 2020 in the numbers they did in 2016. In 2016, 48 percent of this group voted for Trump compared to a four-point percentage drop in 2020 to 42 percent. These numbers are not dramatically lowered from what they were in 2016. But, in 2020, every little bit counted.
Plus, white men with college educations trended away from Trump in 2020 and favored Biden. In 2016, 14 percent of this group voted for Trump compared to a measly three percent in 2020.
Meanwhile, white female college-educated women not only overwhelmingly supported Joe Biden over Trump in 2020 but they also out-registered other groups in key battleground states. In other words, there were more pro-Biden white, educated, female registered voters in swing states than many other pro-Trump groups.
Trump is the Fringiest Possible Nominee
Bottom line: Donald Trump is now a fringe candidate who is far too toxic to win the General Election—even against “Sleepy” Joe Biden (who, again, is the worst president in my lifetime). This has nothing to do with Trump’s policies as president.
While he did not deliver anywhere near what he promised to, the few successes he had were impressive. Yet, Trump never learned that a president must appeal to a wide cross-section of voters—especially when running for reelection.
His impulse is to tack harder to the Right, trying to goad more of that diminishing group of MAGA diehards out there into coming out in support his campaign.
He’s already got them. Trump cannot win beyond that. He is viewed by far too many voters as dangerously divisive and, therefore, is seen as a pariah who must be defeated at all costs.
At this rate, unless DeSantis steps up and truly challenges Trump in the GOP Primary meaningfully, Donald Trump will get the GOP nomination and then loses to the Democrat nominee.
Too many Americans view Trump as irredeemable and there’s nothing he can do now to change that opinion of him.
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.