Trump Singes the GOP as He Blazes Ahead

December 14, 2023

With fewer than five weeks before the first contest in the 2024 presidential race, new polls contain more bad news for President Joe Biden and more good news for Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump moved ahead of Mr. Biden for the first time in the Dec. 4 Wall Street Journal poll, 47% to 43%. Two early December CNN battleground polls put Mr. Trump ahead of Mr. Biden, in Michigan 50% to 40% and in Georgia 49% to 44%.

In the GOP primary race, the Dec. 7 Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll said Mr. Trump went from having 43% of likely GOP caucusgoers in the state in October to 51% today. He was followed by Ron DeSantis at 19% and Nikki Haley at 16%. A cautionary note: Iowa has a history of late-forming upsets. The wins of Republicans Rick Santorum in 2012 and Ted Cruz in 2016 and Democrat Pete Buttigieg in 2020 as well as the loss of Democrat Howard Dean in 2004 were all surprises. 

But Mr. Trump’s surge in Iowa is probably the result of his campaign’s decision to begin actually paying attention to the critical first-in-the-nation contest. After months of avoiding the Hawkeye State—he stayed for barely an hour at the state fair in mid-August—the Trump campaign announced he would do six Iowa rallies in September and October. He ended up making nine stops in those two months, followed by another event in November and four more in the first few weeks of December, according to the Register, including his second stop in the city of Waterloo in roughly two months.

The decision to have more Iowa appearances was simple and wise, but nothing is ever normal in Donald Trump’s turbulent world. Witness two campaign decisions very likely made by the candidate himself.

First, he constantly brags about his lead, saying “I’m up on these people by 60 points and 59 points. And I don’t mean I’m at 59, I’m leading them by 59.” He’s ahead, but he isn’t that far ahead. Mr. Trump was polling at 57% nationally when he said this (and at about 47% in Iowa and New Hampshire). Claiming that his standing in the polls is his lead over the field is a potential misstep.

Any consultant worth his salt would advise his client not to exaggerate his lead. Front-runners should lower expectations. Polls tend to tighten, and you don’t want supporters to get demoralized if you win by a smaller margin than expected—or lose.

Then there’s Mr. Trump’s name-calling. He sarcastically intoned at a rally that his supporters shouldn’t call Chris Christie “a fat pig.” Ms. Haley is “Birdbrain.” Mr. DeSantis is “DeSanctimonious.” Mr. Trump claims each of his GOP opponents would be “a puppet nominee . . . who will do the Deep State’s bidding” and “get along with the sinister forces that are destroying our country.”

Mr. Trump insults their supporters, too. He rails that voters who back his opponents are “disloyal, globalist” and “two-faced, backstabbing RINOs.” They would “rather see Joe Biden win,” he says. RINO—an acronym for Republican in name only—is rich coming from a man who registered as a Republican only in 2012.

If Mr. Trump won the nomination, what would his vanquished rivals say about his over-the-top insults? This isn’t new; Mr. Trump has never been able to control his delight in lobbing slurs and abuse at his opponents, including Republican competitors and their grassroots backers and donors. It hasn’t hurt him in the GOP race so far, and it didn’t in 2016. Some of his most loyal supporters seem to delight in it.

Read More at the WSJ

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