GOP 2024 nomination: Why Trump is the frontrunner right now



Conservatives from around the country are in Washington this weekend for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

Some potential 2024 Republican presidential candidates, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have not been seen. But former President Donald Trump will address the conference on Saturday, and he’ll be riding a wave of momentum in the polls.

Trump is a clear, but not prohibitive, favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination next year. Right now, he’s averaging 44% in national primary polls. He is 15 points ahead of DeSantis at 29%.

A 15-point lead at this early stage of the campaign may not seem impressive, but it is for two reasons.

The first is that most of the candidates currently running to replace Trump have won primaries. See all candidates who averaged at least 35% in previous national primary polls in the first half of the year before the primary (eg, January-June 2019 for the 2020 primary).

Since 1972, about 75% of these candidates have won the nomination while facing at least one primary challenger. During this period of the primary campaign, those who voted between 35% and 50% won about 67% of the time.

It would be easy to dismiss Trump’s numbers as simply a product of popularity, but history suggests otherwise. Potential candidates for this group include President Gerald Ford in 1976, Vice President George W. Bush in 1988, and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole in 1996.

It turns out that name recognition is critical to winning nominations and may be a strength rather than a weakness for Trump.

In other words, Trump’s current position in the polls is statistically significant, albeit early.

Candidates for DeSantis’ job were not so successful. Those who voted between 20% and 35% have controlled about 40% of the party since 1972.

The second reason Trump has an advantage over DeSantis is that he is growing. This is a change from where we were for most of last year.

Trump was especially hard hit after Republicans’ dismal performance in last fall’s midterm elections. His once 40-point lead over DeSantis in the polls dwindled to an average of 10 points in the second half from November to December. Trump’s share of GOP support fell from 50% to 40%.

The reason was pretty clear: Much of the blame for the GOP’s historic lack of midterm results for the opposition party rested squarely on Trump. Many of the candidates he supported lost in winnable races, including those who espoused the lie that the 2020 election was illegal.

In part because of the midterm results, Trump was not considered the most eligible Republican for 2024. A Marist College poll in mid-November found that only 35% of Republicans think they have a chance at winning the presidency again. . This is down from 50% at the end of 2021.

DeSantis, meanwhile, can point to his 20-point re-election victory in Florida last year as a sign of his eligibility.

So what has changed the game for Trump in the run up to 2023?

The most basic explanation is that he is back on the campaign trail, and DeSantis is dancing around the presidential candidate.

The media’s dominance of the 2016 Republican campaign was key for Trump to oust his rivals.

Since the beginning of the year, Trump has received more attention on Fox News than he did immediately after the midterm elections. Meanwhile, warnings about DeSantis have diminished.

By getting out and campaigning, Trump can remind Republicans what he likes in the first place. It may leave behind memories of a bad election in 2022. The percentage of Republicans who now see him as the best chance to win in 2024 has risen to more than 40 percent in Marist polls.

DeSantis also had to deal with former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley announcing her candidacy for president. The two-time South Carolina governor is polling slightly better than before (but still below 10 percent), but that further divides the non-Trump vote.

The question going forward is what happens if DeSantis officially declares a 2024 run? This could give a clear indication of whether Trump will remain in the lead until the first votes are cast.

For now, Trump will almost certainly take the position he had a few months ago.

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