Former president Donald Trump’s announcement of a 2024 White House run was predictable, even if the timing was suspect. He delivered his message calmly and clearly, and he remained on point. The problem is the message was given by a man who has been branded by his opponents with the most problematic personal characteristics of any president in recent history.
The challenge for Trump is to overcome his own negative brand. Can it be done?
According to FiveThirtyEight, Trump’s unfavorability outpaced his favorability by 14.4 points in October 2022. The Club for Growth released a polling memo after the midterms showing Trump trailing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by double digits in the key early presidential states of Iowa and New Hampshire, according to Politico.
However, the Morning Consult tracking poll may portend there is some daylight for Trump to turn his numbers around.
According to the poll, which tracks Trump’s popularity with Republican primary voters, Trump’s support dipped to 40 percent after the post-election events of January 2021. Trump rose to 57 percent in August 2022 — likely due to the FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago, and then dropped to 48 percent post-midterms in which several of his high-profile endorsed candidates lost.
Tracking polls also show DeSantis increasing his support from 14 percent to 26 percent during 2022.
The Morning Consult polling narrative suggests the Trump and DeSantis candidacies may be more symbiotic than parasitic, each appealing to different parts of the base.
“The Trump-supporting potential primary voter is slightly more likely to be a woman, a person of color, or lack a college education while the average DeSantis backer is more likely to hail from the suburbs, live in a higher-income household, and be of retirement age,” it reported.
And, the 26 percent who support neither candidate seem to be up for grabs. “This group of voters — a third of whom no longer want Trump to play a role in the party — shares a similar gender and educational makeup to the DeSantis base, while their age, household income, community, and racial identity aligns more closely with the typical Trump supporter, suggesting they may eventually split their allegiances, which could work to Trump’s advantage.”
Trump will need five things to happen to be successful and win the nomination.
—He cannot be the person his enemies say he is from this point forward. He needs to focus on issues, framing problems and positing solutions. He cannot attack the media, mock his opponents or excuse his past transgressions. If he slips here, he will fail.
—Trust that more “pain” is in the future due to President Biden’s policies. That will keep his campaign focused primarily on the economy, where he can win the support of 65 percent of primary voters who do not currently back his candidacy.
—Use political Jujutsu against Democrats to manipulate their force against them. That will be difficult for Trump as it cuts against his grain because he fancies himself to be a good counterpuncher who, during his term in office, usually meant insulting those who opposed him. Trump must find ways to deflect personal attacks and use them to highlight their failed policies.
—Embrace the new generation of Republicans in the House of Representatives as disciples of Trump’s “America First” agenda. Here, he should lay claim to every thoughtful initiative, especially those focused on altering the trajectory of government. That will bolster his claim to being the “Father of a Movement.”
—Stress that it will take four more years to finish transitioning the Republican Party to one that can be competitive in Democratic-controlled urban areas and win on both coasts by continuing to attract minorities and the working class to the party on the issues of crime and education. Trump will need to work hard in 2023 to favorably affect municipal elections nationally as part of his campaign strategy.
Trump has his age and several disturbing parts of his history working against him, but he also has something uncommon in politics as he started a movement that challenged the political class and lay bare its ineptitude and duplicity. But his biggest challenge will be to place his movement’s success above his ego.