The year 2022 was not a good one for former President Donald Trump and the MAGA movement. From disappointing midterm results to accumulating legal troubles, the Trump 2024 campaign is battling on multiple fronts to keep its head above water. And as the former-president-turned-NFT-salesman advocates for suspending the Constitution, his path to the White House gets more complicated. In addition to his decreasing national popularity, Trump’s grip on the nomination is slipping in the face of growing opposition from within the GOP that he cannot rhetorically bludgeon as he did in 2016. With several credible primary challengers on the horizon, a potential Trump White House return is less than certain.
The MAGA allure that catapulted Trump to victory in 2016 is losing its luster. According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, Trump’s favorability rating has plummeted to its lowest level in seven years, with just 31 percent of registered voters expressing a positive view of the former president. Even more troubling is his sinking approval among Republicans — his support has dipped to 64 percent, according to a new USA Today/Suffolk University survey. Tellingly, RealClearPolitics found that Trump, when faced with unpopular incumbent President Joe Biden, averaged two points behind Biden in several national polls. Trump has neither the shock value nor the grip on the party that won him the White House in 2016. His adversaries within the GOP are certainly aware of this lack as the threat of a crowded primary pool looms.
So far, Trump is the only Republican to announce his candidacy for the presidency, but the seas are far from clear for Team MAGA. Shortly after Trump’s declaration, several wealthy GOP megadonors stated that they would support Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin over the former president if either decided to run. Both DeSantis and Youngkin are two rising stars within conservative politics, especially after the former’s sweeping victory in Florida’s recent gubernatorial race. Trump has certainly noticed the threat they pose to his reelection chances, as he has insulted DeSantis by calling him “Ron DeSanctimonious” and accused Youngkin of having a name that “sounds Chinese.”
Notwithstanding the emotional and borderline-racist lashing out, Trump has reasons to be afraid. A Wall Street Journal poll recently gave DeSantis a 14-point lead over the former president in a hypothetical election (52 percent to 38 percent) and found that the governor has a higher favorability rating among Republicans (86 percent to 74 percent). Meanwhile, Youngkin has refused to rule out a run for the White House while positioning himself as a GOP darling with whom many conservative candidates feel comfortable campaigning.
Both governors have received nationwide attention and the ire of the former president. But what about other prospective candidates? Outgoing Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, two of Trump’s most vocal GOP critics, have expressed interest in running for president, with Cheney stating that she will do “whatever it takes” to keep Trump out of office. Their campaigns would be more symbolic than serious — as Kinzinger has joked: “I would love it… Even if he crushed me.” Perhaps former Vice President Mike Pence will put his hat in the ring, considering that the release of his memoir and reports of new staff hirings coincided with Trump’s campaign announcement. In a recent survey by Morning Consult and Politico, which included conservative heavyweights such as Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, Pence was the only person outside of Trump or DeSantis to receive support from more than 5 percent of voters.
Besides Pence, there’s former Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who created a political action committee, wrote a memoir set for release this month, and repeatedly criticized Trump (not by name) for Republican setbacks in 2022, potentially laying the groundwork for his presidential bid. Meanwhile, Trump’s former U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, signaled an intent to run for higher office while speaking before the Republican Jewish Coalition, stating, “I’ve never lost an election, and I’m not going to start now.” Other hopefuls who the Washington Post and Business Insider have speculated will run include Govs. Kristi Noem, Chris Sununu, Larry Hogan, and former Gov. Asa Hutchinson, while Sens. Marco Rubio, Rick Scott, Ted Cruz, and Tim Scott are not outside the realm of possibility.
Trump is certainly in the fight for his life as he loses his grip on the GOP. The civil war surging within the party is only going to become more fractious as 2024 approaches. With more presidential campaigns expected to be announced from now until next June, the crowded primary may begin to seem like 2016 all over again. Only, this time, Trump won’t be able to divide and conquer so easily as the last. From the election denialism that instigated Jan. 6 to his bombastic and erratic rhetoric, Trump is bleeding out and the sharks smell it.
Yet, true to his style, Trump shows no signs of quitting as he musters everything he has left for one last shot at the White House.
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