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Last week, former President Donald Trump made the announcement everyone was waiting for. But his declaration that he is making a third run for the presidency doesn’t seem to have inspired the excitement that people expected. In fact, early indicators suggest he might not have the level of support from the base that he has enjoyed up to this point.
Individuals and organizations that were once firmly in the Trump camp seem to be inching away from backing him. Many have suggested that his time is up, and the GOP should rally behind a different leader to carry the torch into 2024.
The Club for Growth, a conservative organization, released polling last week showing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis leading the former president by double digits in four, early primary states. Politico reported:
The anti-tax organization, which was once a staunch Trump ally but over the last year has broken with him, on Monday provided POLITICO with a polling memo showing the former president trailing DeSantis by double digits in one-on-one matchups in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states on the GOP nominating calendar. The surveys also show DeSantis leading Trump by wide margins in Florida, their shared home state, and Georgia, which is holding a Dec. 6 runoff for one of its Senate seats.
David McIntosh, president of Club for Growth, said:
Republicans need to be united behind a strong candidate and a platform that shows voters real solutions to beat Biden and the Democrats in 2024. Our polling shows that Republican primary voters recognize Trump’s insults against Republicans as hollow and counterproductive, and it’s taking a significant toll on his support.
The report noted that the poll shows DeSantis leading Trump by 11 percentage points in Iowa and 15 points in New Hampshire. “Those numbers represent an improvement for DeSantis since August, when previous Club for Growth’s polling found Trump with a 15-point lead in Iowa, while the two were tied in New Hampshire,” according to the organization, which also had the governor beating Trump by 26 points in Florida and 20 points in Georgia.
Another recent survey of a 2024 GOP primary, which was conducted by Morning Consult just before the November 8 election, showed more favorable results for Trump. According to the poll, Trump led the field with 48 percent, followed by DeSantis at 26 percent.
YouGov published the results of a poll conducted after the midterm elections showing DeSantis leading 41 percent to 39 percent.
Voters in Texas, a critical state, also supported the Florida governor over the former president. The Texas Republican Party took a poll showing that out of six candidates, 43 percent chose DeSantis as the top choice. Trump came in second, at 32 percent.
But the base is not the only area where Trump is losing support. He has also lost some high-profile, right-leaning influencers who were integral to his popularity. Candace Owens, Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears, and Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) have publicly suggested he might not be the right person for the job anymore.
Lummis, in particular, said DeSantis is now the leader of the GOP. There will likely be more high-profile conservatives who come out in favor of the governor over the former president, as the election gets closer.
But polling and influencers are only two critical areas in which Trump is falling short. He is also losing support from major donors, who are hesitant to provide his campaign with funding.
Stephen Schwarzman, CEO and co-founder of private equity firm Blackstone, told Axios that he does not plan to donate to Trump’s campaign as he did previously. “America does better when its leaders are rooted in today and tomorrow, not today and yesterday,” he opined.
Schwarzman continued: “It is time for the Republican Party to turn to a new generation of leaders and I intend to support one of them in the presidential primaries.”
This is a significant development because Schwarzman was close to the former president and “had real pull in the Trump White House,” according to Axios.
Ken Griffin, founder of the Citadel hedge fund, is now endorsing DeSantis after having been a staunch Trump supporter. He referred to the former president as a “three-time loser” and indicated it is time for someone new to move the GOP forward.
Even more surprising is that Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah Mercer, have indicated they will not back Trump in the primaries. The Mercers “were among Trump’s major benefactors during his first run for president in 2016,” but are now “cutting back their overall campaign fundraising.”
Trump doesn’t need the money. But the statements by Schwarzman and Griffin are likely to give cover and backbone to some Republican elected officials to move on.
But it is also worth noting that Trump does not necessarily need outside donors to fund his campaign – he is in a position to mostly do this himself. Still, these high-profile defections might influence others to seek out a new leader to back. The optics of this development are not favorable to the former president.
So, the question is: Does Trump still have a viable chance to win the GOP nomination, and later the presidency?
Despite the bleak picture these developments have painted, it might still be folly to count him out – especially when it’s this early in the game. The past decade has shown us that just about anything can happen. While DeSantis enjoys tremendous support from the base – and Trump didn’t do himself any favors by attacking him – it is not yet clear that he wishes to run in 2024.
Additionally, even if he did decide this was his time, he and Trump would not be the only contenders vying for the Republican nomination. In a field of multiple contenders, support from those who don’t want to see Trump make another one would likely be diluted among the non-Trump candidates. With the former president still garnering the lion’s share of the votes, he could still pull it off.
Even further, Democrats are severely lacking when it comes to viable candidates to run in 2024. Biden, if he runs again, will be over 80 years old and has already shown himself to be inept. Vice President Kamala Harris has also been a disappointment to the left. If they can’t get it together in time, Trump might have an easier time winning the general election than the Republican primary. If he can avoid shooting himself in both feet with a 12-gauge, he might just have a winning chance.