Donald Trump’s latest indictment stems from his challenges to the 2020 election and essentially criminalizes claiming an election was rigged. Still, even with a third indictment Trump soldiers on and dominates the GOP presidential primary field. The indictments even seem to have helped him increase his lead on his challengers, leaving him the clear frontrunner for the nomination. Many insist he can’t win the general election. But while it will be no walk in a park, Trump can actually win. Here’s how and why:
Professional conservatives frequently cry that any other Republican could do far better in 2024 than Trump. But if that were true, they would be near Trump in the polls. Instead, Trump sits atop the field by a whopping 38 points in the RealClearPolitics average. His lead keeps increasing alongside the number of indictments. Ron DeSantis, the only rival in double digits, is watching his numbers decline. He or another challenger might catch Trump, but that’s unlikely. It’s hard to think of a worse situation than facing three (and soon maybe four) indictments while running for president. Yet Trump’s lead remains unbreakable.
It’s hard to say his primary challengers are more electable if they can’t win the GOP base. The base remains devoted to Trump, providing him a strong foundation for a general election.
Trump’s likely opponent in the general election is a very weak candidate. Joe Biden has a low approval rate of 40 percent [Biden Averages 40.7% Job Approval in 10th Quarter, by Megan Brenan, Gallup, July 28, 2023]. He hasn’t accomplished anything in office to run on. The economy is in awful shape, with gas prices still running near $4 per gallon [Increases At The Pump Slow and More Relief Could Be On The Way, Gasprices.AAA.com, August 3, 2023]. Food prices have jumped 6.7 percent since May last year [The Cost of Groceries: Are Food Prices Going Up?, by Anna Helhoski, NerdWallet.com July 21, 2023]. All that could change, but Americans are hurting. Even if the economy improves, they won’t forget the pain Biden inflicted. As well, his foreign policy has been chaotic, the border invasion continues, and he has signed no meaningful legislation into law. There’s also Biden’s corruption allegations and his deteriorating health.
Biden’s public appearances are getting rougher, with more signs of physical frailty and increasing cognitive difficulties. No wonder he rarely takes questions from reporters. Even hard-shell Leftists claimed he had dementia during the 2020 campaign [Joe Biden Obviously Has Dementia and Should Withdraw, by Ted Rall, Rasmussen, March 14, 2020]. The now-octogenarian is bound to struggle even more [2 in 3 concerned about Biden’s mental, physical health: survey, by Lauren Sforza, The Hill, June 25, 2023].
And, unlike Trump, Biden has unenthusiastic support among his party’s base. Half of Democrats want someone other than Biden as their nominee. It’s unlikely Biden’s elderly self will ignite any enthusiasm in voters [Biden Shores Up Democratic Support, but Faces Tight Race Against Trump, by Reid J. Epstein, Ruth Igielnik and Camille Baker, New York Times, August 1, 2023].
Leftist journalists are very concerned Trump can win. CNN’s Harry Enten recently explained how strong a candidate Trump is. “No one in Trump’s current polling position in the modern era has lost an open presidential primary that didn’t feature an incumbent,” Enten wrote. “He’s pulling in more than 50% of support in the national primary polls, i.e., more than all his competitors combined.“
'Trump is not only in a historically strong position for a nonincumbent to win the Republican nomination, but he is in a better position to win the general election than at any point during the 2020 cycle and almost at any point during the 2016 cycle.'https://t.co/uckid7W9Mb— Matthew Continetti (@continetti) July 31, 2023
Enten argued that Trump is also in a strong position in the general election:
What should arguably be more amazing is that despite most Americans agreeing that Trump’s two indictments thus far were warranted, he remains competitive in a potential rematch with President Joe Biden. A poll out last week from Marquette University Law School had Biden and Trump tied percentage-wise (with a statistically insignificant few more respondents choosing Trump).
The Marquette poll is one of a number of surveys showing Trump either tied or ahead of Biden. The ABC News/Washington Post poll has published three surveys of the matchup between the two, and Trump has come out ahead—albeit within the margin of error—every time. Other pollsters have shown Biden only narrowly ahead.
To put that in perspective, Trump never led in a single national poll that met CNN’s standards for publication for the entirety of the 2020 campaign. Biden was up by high single digits in the late summer of 2019. Biden is up by maybe a point in the average of all 2024 polls today.
Surveys in the late summer of 2015 told the same story: Clinton was up by double digits over Trump in late July and up by mid-to-high single digits by the end of August 2015.
[The chance of Trump winning another term is very real, July 30, 2023 (Links in original)]
Enten also observed that Trump is doing well in battleground state polls. A Quinnipiac poll released in late June showed Trump with a one-point lead in Pennsylvania. That’s a big deal because it’s only the second, CNN-approved poll since 2015 that showed Trump winning Pennsylvania in a general election. He won it in 2016 and disputed it in 2020.
If CNN is (reluctantly) bullish on Trump’s chances, then he’s definitely got a path to victory. The latest RCP average has Biden ahead of Trump by less than a point.
Throughout Trump’s presidency, he was crippled by “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” News outlets made a killing in ratings and subscribers with hysterics over his every word or deed. This eventually culminated in 2020 with the Flu Manchu panic. Cable news outlets had death trackers in the lead-up to the election and claimed Trump was responsible for every single death in America.
A sizable part of the population bought into TDS, which greatly affected the 2020 election. Millions of Americans seriously believed Trump was solely to blame for COVID. No COVID, and Trump would’ve probably cruised to an easy reelection victory.
But COVID is gone, and TDS has subsided. News consumption has dropped significantly since Trump left the White House. Media companies have laid more than 17,000 employees and struggle to retain readers and viewers [Record number of media job cuts so far in 2023, by Sara Fischer, Axios, June 13, 2023]. The indictments haven’t indicated that the TDS will resurface. The general population has greeted them nonchalantly.
Upshot: The Leftist media’s histrionics cannot whip the masses into mass panic like they once could. Democratic enthusiasm might be far less apparent than Republican enthusiasm in 2024. That will greatly affect turnout.
Trump can also accomplish the perfect balance in issues for 2024. Biden’s weakest issue is the Great Replacement Invasion at the southwest border. Immigration matters to the GOP base and it won the 2016 election for Trump. He is one of two Republicans to elevate the issue to a central plank in his campaign. He promises border security, mass deportation, and an end to birthright citizenship. If Trump adds restrictions on legal immigration, he will have the right pitch to win again in 2024. It is not an issue that Biden wants brought up. He’s desperately trying to hide the border invasion he is aiding and abetting. Trump can hit Biden where he’s most vulnerable.
At the same time, Trump can appear more moderate than his Republican foes. His primary rivals want him to make abortion and entitlement reform major issues. But abortion hurt Republicans in the 2022 midterms [How the fall of Roe v. Wade shook the 2022 election, by Elena Schneider and Holly Otterbein, Politico, December 19, 2022]. Trump wants to ignore the issue [Donald Trump is ignoring anti-abortion activists and winning anyway, by Benjy Sarlin, Semafor, August 3, 2023]. He can do this because he established his pro-life credentials in his first campaign, and because pro-life voters won’t abandon him for Biden. Similarly, entitlement reform is very unpopular among voters and Trump is promising he will make no cuts to Social Security [Trump’s GOP rivals open door to cutting Social Security for younger people, by Jeff Stein, Washington Post, July 22, 2023].
Trump could strike the right balance on being moderate and “radical” alongside the majority of voters. Other Republicans take positions that alienate them from the majority and fail to excite the base. Trump is different.
All this said, Trump still faces a tough road in 2024, mainly because of these Banana Republic political indictments. Right now, they have only helped him among Republican voters and have apparently not bothered voters in general. But a conviction could change that. A new Reuters poll finds that nearly half of Republicans would be wary of voting for Trump if he’s convicted [About half of US Republicans could spurn Trump if he is convicted, Reuters/Ipsos poll shows, by Jason Lange, Reuters, August 3, 2023]. Granted, that could change, but it does show that a conviction will hurt him. The last two presidential elections were determined by a few thousand votes. He can’t risk losing any.
Trump must try to get his trials delayed until after the election. Even if he’s exonerated before Election Day, the trials will take him off the campaign trail and highlight his weakness. Without a conviction, Trump remains a viable candidate. With a conviction, there may still be a chance of him winning, but it’s a greatly reduced chance.
Donald J. Trump could very well be our next president despite his legal problems. If he gets his trials delayed or even an indictment thrown out, he will have as much of a chance at victory as he did in 2016 or 2020. Don’t bet on a blowout.
Washington Watcher II [Email him] is an anonymous DC insider.