I have long argued that the appeal and support of former President Donald Trump has peaked.
Trump’s fateful decision to forego appearing on stage with the other potential candidates vying for the Republican Party’s nomination in 2024 and instead to sit down for a softball interview with Tucker Carlson has proven to be as damaging as I had cautioned readers it would be.
Most Republican voters who watched the GOP debate got to see the potential alternatives to Trump, notably Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis and the biotech billionaire, Vivek Ramaswamy, in a light that was unadulterated by Trump’s infamous bullying and name-calling.
Both DeSantis and Ramaswamy enjoyed major upticks in their poll numbers in the aftermath of the debate.
Donald Trump Losing Steam
A wave of recent polls has been released indicating that, indeed, Trump’s appeal is waning among likely Republican voters. Specifically, a Young Republican National Federation (YRNF) straw poll of some of the Republican Party’s most politically active members now prefer DeSantis over Trump. This gels nicely with the other polls indicating DeSantis’ post-debate bounce in the polls.
More importantly, these data points merge perfectly with other polling data showing that Governor DeSantis is performing well in Iowa, the first state where voting in the Republican Party’s primary will take place in mid-January 2024.
Trump continues to enjoy a lead over DeSantis, Ramaswamy, and the other Republican Party presidential candidates. Yet, that lead is dissipating while DeSantis and Ramaswamy’s share of support is only increasing. In fact, if former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Trump Administration Vice-President Mike Pence, former Trump Administration UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), were not still running, then, Ron DeSantis’ numbers would be far greater than what they are today.
Everyone, including Donald Trump, understand this to be the truth. This explains why Trump, a man who currently enjoys a misleading double-digit lead over his Republican rivals (with DeSantis coming in second behind Trump in most of those polls), continues to hammer away at Ron DeSantis while ignoring all the other challengers to his 2024 White House bid (save for Chris Christie, whom he hates viscerally).
If Trump’s lead was so great and his victory was so assured, the former president wouldn’t even bothering with attacking the Florida governor.
At some point, soon, the other candidates with single-digit levels of support in the GOP Primary will have to drop out and most—if not all—of their support will shift over to Governor DeSantis. All he must do is wait them out, as their far fewer resources supporting their quixotic campaigns are drained away over time. This is especially true if the bulk of the Iowa polls indicating DeSantis’ high level of support are accurate.
Momentum Wins in the Long-Run
Once DeSantis wins the first primary state, his campaign will have the momentum it needs to start shaking the race up from its current condition. Nothing generates support, after all, like a win. Again, former President Trump knows this which is why he’s continuing to lay his attacks on DeSantis so thick.
Already, though, a national poll has been released indicating that Trump’s numbers have slipped by a basis of six points since the forty-fifth president skipped out on the first GOP debate. As time progresses and DeSantis marshals his vast resources with aplomb, while Trump is increasingly saddled with having to spend his campaign funds on his mounting legal troubles, the center of gravity in the GOP Primary will shift to DeSantis’ favor.
Trump must continue besmirching DeSantis, having Trump surrogates outrightly lie about the governor, in order to shape as many voters’ perceptions of DeSantis as early in the campaign as possible. But DeSantis is fighting back and because he lacks the legal woes that Trump is suffering through, DeSantis does have long-term advantages that Trump otherwise lacks.
Donald Trump Peaked Too Soon
The fact remains that Trump entered the race earlier than any other candidate did and, therefore, he received considerable first-mover advantages in terms of support and media buzz. Now, however, Trump is bleeding that support through attrition and thanks to the presence of multiple candidates—notably DeSantis and Ramaswamy—Trump might start losing critical votes and campaign donations permanently.
In the case of Vivek Ramaswamy, no friend of Ron DeSantis, the biotech billionaire and former George Soros protégé is oddly receiving the support of Trump-world. This is likely a cynical move by the Trump Campaign to try to bleed support away from DeSantis. Although, this move will backfire as Ramaswamy is cleaving considerable airtime and support from Trump in the Primary—so much so that it could end up detracting from Trump’s base of support at a key moment when DeSantis is rising.
The bottom line is that Trump has probably peaked. The only direction he can go from here is down in terms of support, whereas DeSantis and Ramaswamy have only upward to go. At this rate, I do not expect to see Donald Trump as the GOP nominee by the end of the Republican Party primary.
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 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 (Encounter Books), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert occasionally serves as a Subject Matter Expert for various organizations, including the Department of Defense. He can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.
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