Can Trump Win?



The Republican Presidential candidates descended on the Iowa State Fair last week, and the 2024 primary is ramping up.  With a comfortable lead in polling and no shortage of supporters, former President Donald Trump looks like he will comfortably take the nomination once again.  He will not be on the debate stage in a couple weeks, and refuses to sign the loyalty pledge vowing support of any nominee should he lose. So the question for anyone wanting to see Joe Biden out of office is: Can Trump pull off another miracle?

The clear argument in Trump’s favor is he has a base of support that any other Republican simply does not have.  Trump has the unique ability to connect with people who normally don’t vote, who don’t feel that they are represented by other politicians.  This is the enigma of Trump in a nutshell – the Queens-born billionaire has an easier time connecting to the average middle-of-the-country voter than anyone else.  Those people will always come out for Trump.

Then there’s the fact that Joe Biden is clearly a bad president – and an unhealthy one.  Nearly every appearance Biden is simply showing his age and failing mental faculties, either through slurred speech or notecards with pre-written questions.  The administration is trying to sell “Bidenomics,” pretending that the economy is doing great under Biden when even CNN admits that the average American family is paying $709 per month more than they did two years ago for the same goods and services.  Despite what the Democrats are trying to sell, they cannot deny that inflation is still too high, the debt keeps increasing, and interest rates have skyrocketed to try to keep the economy from crashing completely.  

Then there’s the numerous other issues on the foreign policy front.  The Afghanistan pullout will be a stain on Biden’s term forever and always; allowing 13 U.S. service members to die and leaving behind hundreds of Americans and tens of thousands Afghan allies to the Taliban was a disgrace, one that Biden cannot escape from.  The war in Ukraine is a fallout from that debacle, as was Iran’s increased hostility in the region. Biden trying to get back in Iran’s good graces has alienated Saudi Arabia, further increasing the energy crisis that has been occurring during the last few years.  Biden also destroyed an opportunity for the Saudis to join the Abraham Accords, normalizing relations with Israel, because the foreign policy “experts” don’t want peace between Israel and any Arab nation without bringing the Palestinians into the conversation. Meanwhile, North Korea is testing ballistic missiles, China is threatening Taiwan, and over 5 million people from Central and South America have illegal crossed into the United States, causing states of emergency in several major American cities; including New York. 

Trump, on the other hand, can comfortably run on the first three years of his administration, in which the economy was booming, Iran, Russia, China, and North Korea were docile, peace was being made in the Middle East, and illegal border crossings dropped precipitously. Trump has a lot to answer for in his actions during Covid, especially giving unfettered power to Dr. Anthony Fauci, but it seems like voters are not that interested in talking about Covid.  If they were, Governor Ron DeSantis would be leading in a landslide, considering his Covid leadership was some of the best in the country.  

This, however, is the analysis of someone who, while very annoyed at Trump’s personal and political behavior over the past seven years, can ignore all of that behavior and focus on the positive aspects of the Trump administration, not the myriad of negatives.  That is not the average voter.  As much as Trump has his fans, he has far more people who hate him with unfettered vigor and passion.  They can look at a crumbling and weak Biden and vote in his favor because that vote is against Trump.  That describes most Democrats, many independents, and even some Republicans.  

To win, Trump would have to flip 35 Electoral College votes.  He would need to flip Pennsylvania’s 19 votes, along with either Georgia or Arizona, plus either Michigan or Wisconsin.  So he would need to flip at least 2, if not 3 or 4 states.  In his favor are that some Red States, like Texas and Florida, gained Electoral votes after the 2020 census where other Blue States, like California and New York, lost some.  Also in his favor: This will be a lower turnout election because there will not be universal mail-in balloting like in 2020.  The Democratic machine will be in high gear to gather as many votes as possible, so Trump will have to harvest with the same vigor.  

The problem for Trump is that these states will be very hard to flip.  The Arizona GOP is in shambles.  When Trump won in 2016, Arizona was a Red State, with a Republican Governor and two Republican Senators.  Now it has a Democratic Governor and two Democratic Senators. (Even though Krysten Sinema is technically an Independent, she won as a Democrat and caucuses with the Democrats.)  The Arizona GOP seems more interested in fighting about Kari Lake’s loss in 2022 than in looking towards the future.  Georgia doesn’t care for Trump, handing him losses in Senate races in 2021 and 2022, and electing Brian Kemp, who Trump has personal animus toward. Pennsylvania just elected a practically brain-dead Senator in John Fetterman over Trump’s pick, Dr. Mehmet Oz. Michigan and Wisconsin have become bluer and bluer since 2016, which many view as a fluke because Hillary Clinton completely ignored them in that election.  

The only path for a Trump victory is if he makes it incredibly difficult for anyone to throw their support behind Joe Biden.  Yet if Trump is in the news every week fighting one legal challenge after another, then Biden can hide in the basement like he did in 2020 and cruise to another victory.  People won’t care that the DOJ or Soros-backed prosecutors are unfairly or politically targeting Trump, only that he’s on trial and a senile old man is basically nowhere to be seen.  

A candidate like DeSantis, on the other hand, may have an easier time flipping those states that need to be flipped.  Sure, he won’t have the hardcore “will vote for no one but Trump” supporter, but he will have Independents voting for him and Democrats staying home because voting for Biden is so unpalatable if the alternative is not Trump.  Yet DeSantis’s primary campaign has left much to be desired.  He has not made much headway in the polling, and has consistently lost head-to-head matchups with Trump, even when there weren’t six other candidates in the poll.  He has shaken up his campaign with a new manager, and there is still several months until the first vote is cast, so things can change very quickly for DeSantis (or any other candidate, for that matter).

As to the question, “Can Trump win?”, the answer is not so simple.  He was written off completely by nearly everyone in 2016, so miracles do happen.  But conventional wisdom is conventional for a reason.  If everyone thinks something is going to happen, odds are it’s true. With the debates coming and Trump absent from the stage, there is an opportunity for another candidate to gain a lot of traction with the Republican primary voter.  Time will tell if that is enough to overcome the aura of Trump.  

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