Just when you thought it was safe to read about politics without constant references to Donald Trump or to polls, Politico and Morning Consult have some news for you, per this headline: “Trump Emerges From Impeachment Trial With Sturdy Backing From GOP Voters.”
I am very aware that we don’t know what the 45th president will do going forward or how well his legacy will wear on his party or the country. It’s also crazy early — and for many horse-race-weary people, painfully early — to talk about what might happen in the 2024 presidential cycle. All in all, most people reading my words likely want nothing more than to hear nothing about Trump for the foreseeable future, or perhaps until the end of time.
Having said all that, it’s important to acknowledge that Trump is historically unique, and not just because he was impeached twice or because he left office having incited a physical attack on the Capitol to overturn an election defeat that only a liar of his quality (or those who believed his lies) could have doubted. Like it or not, he left office as the first defeated president since Herbert Hoover to have reason to believe he could make a comeback, with the goal of becoming the first defeated president since Grover Cleveland to pull it off. So his standing among the fellow partisans who may before very long determine whether a Trump comeback is even plausible should be of interest to anyone wanting to look ahead with clear eyes.
We now have one legitimate, if tentative, indiction that Trump’s intraparty standing is currently on the rise again, presumably because of his acquittal in a second Senate impeachment trial, as Politico reports:
While the rest of the country wants less DONALD TRUMP, Republicans just can’t quit him. Our flash POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted in the days following the Senate trial shows that despite the impeachment managers’ gripping presentation and video laying out Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 rampage, the GOP remains the undisputed party of Trump.
Republican voters got over any misgivings they had about Trump’s role on Jan. 6 very quickly. Fifty-nine percent of Republican voters said they want Trump to play a major role in their party going forward. That’s up 18 percentage points from a Morning Consult poll conducted on Jan. 7, and an increase of 9 points from a follow-up poll on Jan. 25, before the impeachment trial began.
Yes, seven Senate Republicans voted to convict Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors, and another 13 voiced criticisms while voting to acquit him. But at the grass roots, it’s another story. The new Morning Consult findings show Trump’s favorability rating among Republicans was at 81 percent immediately after the trial. Mitch McConnell’s, by comparison, was at 33 percent. It’s unclear whether Republicans now think of Mike Pence as Trump’s faithful and often sycophantic sidekick of four years or as the man who refused to steal electoral votes from Joe Biden on January 6; his intraparty favorability rating is at 72 percent.
In an initial horse-race survey of 2024 preferences among Republicans, nobody comes close to Trump, the current favorite of 53 percent. Pence is second at 12 percent, followed by Donald Trump Jr. and Nikki Haley at 6 percent. As Politico notes, “Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, Mitt Romney, Kristi Noem, Larry Hogan, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Tim Scott, and Rick Scott all polled below 5%.” What this shows going forward is that there will likely be a bunch of 2024 aspirants who will decide they cannot possibly offend the former president or his followers for the foreseeable future, even as they hope he won’t run again. Unless assessments of Trump within his party change dramatically, or he chooses for his own reasons to withdraw from politics, he’s going to be the immovable object in the GOP, if not an irresistible force. And for the moment, his status among Republicans is again on the rise.