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Trump’s Support Unfazed by Legal Disputes and Challenging Midterm Landscape

Republican Contenders Struggle to Take on Trump’s Dominance for 2024 Race

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Primary voters within the GOP continue to display unwavering support for former President Trump as their choice for a 2024 presidential candidate. In fact, Trump has seen his lead grow in recent polls, despite being involved in high-profile legal disputes and facing a challenging midterm election landscape. While it’s still a long way to go before presidential debates and primaries take place, several factors have been suggested as reasons for the unyielding support from the party’s voter base. Notably, his recent indictment and ruthless tactics against his potential Republican rivals have contributed to this dynamic.

Rick Wilson, a co-founder of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project has said that the former president has a stronghold on a significant majority of the Republican base. They firmly believe that any legal action against him or any external charges are baseless, a mere output of the ‘deep state,’ or nothing more than a conspiracy. Even after Trump’s Mar-a-Lago was raided and his indictment in New York, his support did not falter. In fact, according to Wilson, Trump supporters tend to rally behind him vehemently against these legal allegations, despite plenty of evidence suggesting otherwise.

In late March, Trump made history by becoming the first president to face criminal charges. Stemming from a Manhattan District Attorney investigation led by Alvin Bragg (D), the charges are centered around Trump’s alleged involvement in a hush money payment made to an adult film actress during his 2016 campaign. Ordinarily, such an indictment would be considered a political death sentence; however, it appears to have little to no negative effect on Trump’s polling, even potentially bolstering his support.

Remarkably, a recent poll by NPR, PBS NewsHour, and Marist found that 63% of Republicans would still want Trump as president, even if found guilty of a crime. Top-tier members of both the party and potential 2024 GOP contenders have largely defended Trump, shattering any hopes of his indictment leading to his political demise. Former Vice President Pence called the indictment an ‘outrage,’ Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) called it a ‘travesty,’ and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said the probe was more about ‘revenge than justice.’

Some Republicans attribute Trump’s strong polling to his aggressive stance against primary opponents, particularly Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R), considered a likely White House contender. Louisiana-based pollster John Couvillon, who mainly works with Republicans, stated that Trump’s combative manner attracts GOP primary voters. Trump has been making strides to solidify his lead within the field early, focusing heavily on DeSantis, though he hasn’t officially announced his candidacy yet. He has referred to the governor as ‘Ron DeSanctimonious’ and has targeted him using his Truth Social platform and political ads.

Recently, a pro-Trump super PAC even released an advertisement picturing DeSantis eating pudding with his fingers, in reference to a Daily Beast story reporting the Florida governor’s unconventional pudding consumption. To Gunner Ramer, political director of the anti-Trump Republican Accountability PAC, these attacks potentially tarnish DeSantis by labeling him as an establishment Republican candidate, similar to other non-compelling options.

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Trump has not hesitated to throw jabs at other Republicans as well, including former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu. In a recent speech in New Hampshire, Trump mocked Christie’s ‘big mouth’ and criticized Sununu’s gubernatorial ambitions, stating that he would’ve been better off running for the Senate, leveraging his family name for an easy victory.

Trump’s rivals have attempted to counter his attacks. However, they have not been nearly as aggressive in their approach. During an interview with Fox News’s Piers Morgan, DeSantis brushed off Trump’s derisive nickname, stating as long as he’s called a ‘winner,’ he’s content with any name-calling. DeSantis also criticized the Bragg indictment, but noted he had no understanding of what it meant to pay hush money to an adult film star for their silence.

However, there is growing pressure on DeSantis to retaliate even more vigorously against Trump. Some within the GOP fear that Trump is maintaining the upper hand on the governor. Couvillon, the aforementioned pollster, stated that Trump’s relentless attacks are what give him an edge, making the former president appear as the ‘tough guy’ that the other Republican candidates seem to lack.

But as time goes on before the first primary contests, some are growing skeptical of DeSantis’s performance. Wilson of the Lincoln Project noted that the Florida governor isn’t quite ‘ready for the big show,’ lacking charisma and the ability to connect with people like Trump. Meanwhile, Erin Perrine, communications director for the pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down, argued that the governor is ‘unequivocally a force to be reckoned with’ and has yet to lose a political fight or election.

Perrine went on to say that Trump might face a difficult battle if he has to defend some of his less favorable records, such as his endorsement of losing candidates, friendship with California Governor Gavin Newsom, or listening to Dr. Anthony Fauci in implementing nationwide lockdowns. Nevertheless, Trump remains the dominant force in the potential 2024 GOP primary field, even with a significant percentage of Republican voters uneasy about the prospect of him seeking another term.

Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung emphasized the former president’s advantage in the polls, stating that no other candidate has come close to presenting such a bold, forward-looking policy agenda. He also noted that leaders at all levels of the Republican party have endorsed Trump as the only one who can win in 2024.

Other Republican White House hopefuls, including DeSantis, are being advised to step up their game if they plan on remaining competitive. Brian Seitchik, a former Trump campaign staffer, acknowledged that there is still time and debates left for candidates to prove themselves, with DeSantis’s team having access to ample resources.

Seitchik specifically pointed out that at the campaign level and independent expenditure level, DeSantis’s resources will enable him to make a strong case. However, he also noted that the initial enthusiasm surrounding DeSantis has faded, and the pressure to perform is mounting as time runs out.

In summary, with the 2024 presidential race heating up, former President Trump has demonstrated an unwavering hold on the Republican primary field, leaving his potential competition with the challenging task of stepping up their efforts to win over the party’s voter base. As the campaign season progresses, all eyes will be watching to see how the race unfolds and whether any other candidates can rise to match Trump’s commanding presence.

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