TURES COLUMN: Trump’s legal problems hurt him in campaign

Published 9:30 am Thursday, June 15, 2023

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When Donald Trump told us during the 2016 Campaign that he could shoot someone on the street and still get elected, he was right, back then. But after a series of indictments and a ruling against him in civil court, it’s clear that “The Teflon Don” is gone. Even Republican voters have begun to sour on the former President.  

And it’s more than just surveys.  In private, several Republican attendees voiced their disgust even as the majority applauded him at the Georgia GOP Convention at the Columbus Trade Center. Republicans should begin looking beyond Trump and DeSantis if they want to win in 2024.

In the first poll released after Trump became the first former U.S. President to be federally indicted in court, Reuters reported that 35% of Republicans, and 62% of all Americans, felt it was believable that the ex-President illegally stored classified documents at his residence.

Reporter Jason Lange concluded that “The federal criminal charges against Donald Trump have done little to change Americans’ views of the former president, based upon a new Reuters/Ipsos poll completed Monday that shows him maintaining a commanding lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination…. Some 43% of self-identified Republicans said Trump was their preferred candidate, compared to 22% who picked Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.”  

I decided to see if that was the case, using Reuters/Ipsos’ own polls prior to the Federal indictment, as well as other national polls. In fact, this evidence clearly shows a marked decline for Trump in his standing with the GOP’s own primary voters, not just with the country.

In the Reuters polls prior to their Monday results, Trump had the support of 49% (May 9-15), 49% (April 21-24), 58% (April 5-6) and 48% (March 31-April 3).  His leads over Ron DeSantis were 28 percentage points, 26 percentage points, 37 percentage points, and 29 percentage points.  Now he’s got 43% support, and only a 21-point lead. Moreover, DeSantis remained will within his Reuters average of 21 percent across these four polls.

It gets worse for Trump when you compare this 43-percent showing and 21-point lead to his RealClearPoll Average of 55.6 percent support, and an average 33-point lead.  And remember, these numbers are only among Republicans.  Nationally, Biden now leads Trump and DeSantis outside the statistical margin of error, and that’s before the indictment was handed down.

And it wasn’t just surveys where concerns about Donald Trump are rampant among Republicans.

Yes, I attended his speech in Columbus, Georgia, at the Columbus Trade Center, to a raucous reception.  

Anyone present there covering the event would conclude that it was a rousing success, given that the South Hall was packed with delegates and guests.  The applause was deafening. And many supporters were publicly giddy with me, claiming this rally boosted their turnout numbers at the Georgia State Convention. And the Waffle House visit was a nice touch.

But away from the cheering crowds, several GOP delegates and other party members took me aside to whisper their anxiety about their chances in 2024, the way his speech dragged on, and even their disgust with Trump’s actions and behavior that has led to so many criminal and civil charges. 

 Republicans may want to pursue a more electable candidate, such as former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchison, who made a good showing at the Columbus event.  It’s not too late.