Hmmm: New 2024 primary poll shows Trump under 50%

These numbers reminded me of something James Carville said to Vox this week about a major problem within the Democratic Party. But it’s not just a Democratic problem. It’s a problem Republicans face in 2024 too.

Just look at how Democrats organize and spend money. For Christ’s sake, [South Carolina Democrat] Jaime Harrison raised over $100 million only to lose his Senate race to Lindsey Graham by 10 points. Amy McGrath runs for Senate in Kentucky and raises over $90 million only to get crushed by Mitch McConnell.

They were always going to lose those races, but Democrats keep doing this stupid sh*t. They’re too damn emotional. Democrats obsess over high-profile races they can’t win because that’s where all the attention is. We’re addicted to hopeless causes.

They’re too damn emotional. They hate Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell so they foolishly shower cash on their Democratic opponents, which ends up being of great benefit to the GOP. Every liberal dollar spent on an unwinnable race is a dollar that’s not being spent on a winnable one. But Democratic donors don’t care. They want to own the cons, or at least the cons they despise the most, and donating big bucks in their races makes them feel like they’re doing that. They’ve let emotion guide their politics instead of reason, to their own detriment.

That’s the choice for Republicans in 2024 too. MAGA will want to triple down on Trump because there’d be no better way to own the libs than by sending him back to the White House. Especially after the, ahem, “rigged election” of 2020.

But that’s an emotional response, not a rational one. The rational choice is to opt for the popular and successful young governor of a major swing state who’s twice as smart as Trump, hasn’t convinced swing voters that he’s a nut, and hasn’t inspired any attacks on the Capitol aimed at maintaining his grip on power.

Reason, not emotion. Are Republicans prepared to follow that approach in the name of maximizing their chances at victory?

Maybe they are, says this new data from YouGov. Maybe they are.

There are signs that at least some Republicans are open to alternatives to Trump. More than a quarter (27 percent) say he should not run again. Sixteen percent say they would consider voting for centrist West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin if he were to run for president as an independent, more than the number of Democrats (10 percent) or independents (15 percent) who say the same. And 21 percent already say they would vote for DeSantis over Trump in the GOP primary; other potential candidates — including former Vice President Mike Pence (6 percent), former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley (6 percent) and Fox News host Tucker Carlson (2 percent) — combine for another 19 percent of the vote, and 12 percent say they’re not sure.

DeSantis’s unfavorable rating among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (12 percent) is also lower than Trump’s (15 percent). More than half (51 percent) rate the Florida governor “very” favorably, on par with the far more familiar Trump (57 percent).

As a result, less than half of Republicans and GOP-aligned independents (46 percent) currently say they would vote for Trump in the 2024 GOP primaries.

Trump 46, DeSantis 21. That’s the same margin as in yesterday’s Echelon Insights poll, which had it Trump 57, DeSantis 32, a 15-point net gain for the challenger since October. If YouGov is right, more than half the party now prefers some candidate other than Trump in 2024. And if DeSantis scores an impressive win in his reelection race this fall, as virtually everyone believes he will, it’s a cinch that he’ll cut even deeper into Trump’s lead in primary polling.

Some political reporters are beginning to believe:

I’m increasingly bullish on DeSantis too. But I keep wondering what would need to happen to convince him to take the plunge and declare his candidacy, knowing how ferocious and bitter the backlash from TrumpWorld would be. DeSantis won’t jump in, I think, unless he’s very confident that he can beat Trump; he’d surely know that threatening Trump for control of the party and then losing would end his national aspirations within the GOP. Granted, Trump eventually made nice with his 2016 rivals, like Ted Cruz, but he and the other candidates that year were all on an equal footing in battling for the nomination. DeSantis challenging Trump in 2024 would be more like an attempted coup, a bid to depose the reigning king. Historically, people who try to unseat a monarch and fail don’t come to happy ends.

If we do reach a point where the head-to-head polling for DeSantis against Trump looks so rosy that he really does have good reason to be confident that he’d win, Trump would presumably find an excuse not to run in order to avoid the risk of a humiliating defeat. So while the odds of DeSantis being the nominee in 2024 may be fairly high and rising, the odds of there actually being a contested primary between him and Trump remain low. Meanwhile, it’s anyone’s guess how Trump would react to the spectacle of DeSantis beginning to outpoll him among “his” people, signaling that he’s no longer the most popular politician on the American right. He’s the least gracious loser in modern politics so he probably wouldn’t take it well. He might prefer to tank the party by badmouthing the new nominee, DeSantis, than to see DeSantis win the presidency and prove that the GOP was better off not nominating Trump.

The question remains, though: Will Republicans let emotion steer them into making the wrong choice? More from YouGov.

Despite a mountain of evidence showing the 2020 presidential contest wasn’t rigged against Donald Trump, nearly 6 in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (57 percent) now say they will not vote in upcoming elections for any candidate who admits that Joe Biden won the presidency “fair and square.”…

The survey of 1,568 U.S. adults, which was conducted from Jan. 20 to 24, found that when asked which issue they want future candidates to focus on the most, the share of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who say “stopping Democrats from rigging and stealing elections” (17 percent) — something that Democrats are not doing — is statistically equivalent to the share who say “bringing down inflation” (19 percent).

Trump’s going to spend this year, and probably the next two years, telling Republicans that they need to avenge the stolen election of 2020 by electing Republicans — and especially by reelecting him. That’ll make things tough on GOP candidates, including on potential 2024 challengers like DeSantis since it’ll box them into endorsing Trump’s election lies for fear of alienating the base. But even if DeSantis plays ball (which he probably will, per his pandering to anti-vaxxers on COVID policies), Trump will insist that there can’t be real revenge on the Dems unless he personally defeats Joe Biden in the next election. What do MAGA voters do with that? Ignore him and opt for the electable guy or do the emotional thing? Stay tuned.

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