Two polls show Republicans prefer Trump as 2024 nominee, but…

It’s a good thing we know now that polls are as reliable as astrology or I would have had a hell of a hard time reconciling these two. On the one hand, says Morning Consult, a clear majority of Republicans favor nominating Trump again in 2024:

On the other hand, says Seven Letter Insight, a mere 35 percent of Republicans favor nominating Trump again in 2024:

Whichever number you believe, it’s way lower than I would have expected. In the current political climate, just a few weeks removed from an election which the vast majority of righties believe was stolen, I’d have guessed 80 percent of GOPers or better would say “Trump” when asked about 2024. The fact that it’s lower — much lower, according to SLI — has me reconsidering my sense of his strength going forward.

At a bottom-line matter, it doesn’t matter if most Republican voters want him or not. If he runs again, younger aspirants like Nikki Haley, Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, and Ted Cruz will stand aside. They’d rather wait another four years than challenge him and risk making mortal enemies of MAGA loyalists whose votes they’ll need eventually. Maybe we’d see a token challenge from a Larry Hogan or a Ben Sasse just to test the strength of Trump’s support, but there’d be no top-tier alternative. The primary would become a simple referendum on the question, “Are we really going to do this again or are we going to choose literally anything else on the menu?” Trump would win that contest unless he behaves so erratically over the next four years that even some of his current fans can’t stomach another go.

But if he’s polling in the 35-55 percent range, it means he may have already been sufficiently tainted by losing to Biden in the eyes of many Republican voters to make his prospects in 2024 weaker than anyone thought. Right, I know, it doesn’t add up that many people claiming to believe that he was cheated would also hold his defeat against him as a sign of weakness, but how voters process information isn’t always rational. Some Republicans may reason that they *suspect* the election was stolen, but in case it wasn’t, we should probably have a look at the rest of the field to see if there are any more electable options.

Here’s another data point from SLI that suggests ambivalence among Republicans. They clearly want someone who’ll carry the Trump mantle. They’re just … not sure that Trump himself is the best person to do that.

Mike Pence actually leads Trump slightly when independents are factored in. And Donald Trump Jr is highly competitive with the top candidates once Trump and Pence are excluded. Republicans want Trumpism! Just, you know, maybe without Trump.

Not sure POTUS is gonna go for that, I’m afraid:

One adviser who recently spoke with the president said that Trump told him he planned to announce a new campaign in three weeks, and that he wanted to act quickly to try to freeze the large field of prospective 2024 Republican presidential candidates. That group includes at least three people who have served in the administration: Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley…

Republicans both privately and publicly worry that Trump — who has shown little affinity toward his chosen party and largely appears to act almost exclusively in his self-interest — could be more likely to play a meddling and damaging role than a helpful one.

“If you let a sickness continue without treatment, you don’t get better,” Steele said. “You just get sicker.”…

This official added that “you will not persuade him that he should change his time frame on making any decision based on what’s quote unquote best for the party. He doesn’t care. We could find ourselves deep into a 2024 election cycle, into mid-2023, and he still hasn’t definitely said he’s not running and you’re just going to see all these 2024 potential contenders uncertain about what to do.”

If you think Trump fatigue is bad now — bad enough to have cost him the general election, in all probability — imagine another four years of it as he tries to bigfoot the GOP from the sidelines, with up-and-comer Republicans paralyzed in terms of how far they can go to steer the party in a direction better suited to build a national majority. Logically, it would be insane for the GOP to triple down on a candidate who’s lost the national popular vote twice, but it’s not a normal political party anymore. It’s a party that houses a large personality cult within it. And its only chance to win is to keep that group happy.

One last point about the two polls above. The SLI survey was conducted between November 10-19. The Morning Consult survey was conducted between November 21-23. It may be that as Trump’s claims of a massive vote-rigging plot have continued and grown wilder, they’ve ended up binding more Republican voters to him over time. That is, maybe the share of Republicans willing to nominate him again in 2024 has grown substantially over the last week or so as the belief that he was cheated has spread.

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