Is Trump Shooting Himself in the Foot?

AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past week, you have already witnessed what appears to be the start of the Clash of the Republican Titans™. Former President Donald Trump has all but completely declared war on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis despite the fact that he has not even indicated whether he intends to challenge Trump for the GOP presidential nomination.

On Thursday, Trump took to his social media platform, Truth Social, to take a series of swipes at the Florida governor, calling him an “average Republican Governor with great Public Relations.”

He slammed DeSantis for closing Florida at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and claimed he approach the former president “in desperate shape” in 2017. “Ron had low approval, bad polls, and no money, but he said that if I would Endorse him, he could win,” Trump wrote.

The rest of the post went on in similar fashion. The point was clear: Trump was calling out the man who many see as his most formidable opponent for the GOP nomination should he decide to run.

DeSantis, fresh off of his triumph against Charlie Crist, has remained silent, not bothering to respond to Trump’s attempt to Jeb Bush him. His restraint isn’t surprising. He has shown that he is willing to punch back when it is strategically sound.

But a recent poll conducted just before the midterm elections might be not only a glimpse into Trump’s motivation for attacking DeSantis but also an indicator that, once again, he isn’t doing himself any favors. The most recent Morning Consult poll measuring the attitudes of Republican voters regarding the 2024 presidential primary revealed that the former president’s support has declined significantly.

The survey revealed that support for Trump among Republican voters has fallen from 53 percent last November to 48 percent. Over the past 12 months, his numbers have ebbed and flowed, hitting their highest in August after the FBI served a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. But now, it is below the halfway mark.

Support for Gov. DeSantis is at 26 percent, while another 26 percent would prefer a candidate who is neither DeSantis nor Trump. This means 52 percent of conservative respondents said they would rather have DeSantis or a different Republican take up the mantle than have the former president make another run at the White House.

Indeed, even looking anecdotally, I can tell you most of those I’ve seen interacting on Twitter much prefer DeSantis to the former president. But it is also worth noting that those favoring the governor would gladly support Trump if he secured the nomination and vice versa.

Even so, it cannot be denied that some of Trump’s popularity has waned. While most on the right still view him favorably, they are ready for someone younger to carry the torch forward. Others feel he has too much baggage to mount a successful campaign against the Democratic nominee. But the survey also reveals more pertinent information about how Republicans are viewing each candidate.

From the report:

While roughly 2 in 3 potential primary voters who aren’t backing Trump or DeSantis described the former as conservative, effective and having good policy ideas, the largest share (68%) view him as a man who “does what’s best for himself,” far more than the 26% who say the same of DeSantis.

Compared with DeSantis, these voters are more than twice as likely to say Trump is divisive and almost three times as likely to say he is a fraud, with a similar spread when asked if he is “bad for America.”

Further according to Morning Consult:

Roughly 2 in 5 of these voters said Trump’s accusations of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election or his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, were reasons not to back another presidential bid, similar to the 45% who cited his social media habit and his age (40%) as more negative than positive.

However, a greater percentage (68 percent) rated Trump as “effective.” The former president also had more respondents (63 percent) describe him as a “strong leader.” He also scored higher in other important categories, including having “good policy ideas” and possessing the ability to “help Republicans win,” along with others.

Still, this survey was taken just before Trump went full Leeroy Jenkins on DeSantis. His conduct in this regard could lower his numbers, as many didn’t approve of his handling of the matter. Indeed, while most of the base still loves Trump, they also love DeSantis. While people expect a matchup between the two, it seems many are not happy that it has already gotten so ugly – and DeSantis’ silence means Trump is the one who will be blamed for going on the offensive before it was necessary. Nevertheless, should DeSantis decide to throw his hat into the ring, I believe we just got a preview of what to expect over the next two years.


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