It seems like the whole political world is waking up to the reality that absent some dramatic and unlikely new development, the 2024 GOP primary isn’t just Donald Trump’s to lose, it’s very difficult to come up with a scenario in which he does lose. One new poll illustrates numerically what is clear enough from the news in front of us. In a head-to-head race, A Yahoo/Yougov poll showed Donald Trump jumping to a 26-point lead over Ron DeSantis (57%–31%) from a 8-point lead less than two weeks ago. As recently as February, it was a 4-point lead. In a ten-candidate field — the more real-world scenario — Trump holds 52% support while DeSantis falls to 21%.
These numbers are still consistent with Ron DeSantis being the only other nominee maintaining any significant degree of support. (Nikki Haley comes in third at 5%.) But they show the DeSantis boomlet has effectively cratered through a mix of his own clumsy campaigning and Trump’s reemergence in the news cycle.
In a climate in which Republican politicians and influencers must unanimously declare that Donald Trump is a victim of political persecution and an almost sainted political figure, it’s just incredibly difficult to sustain any kind of argument that Trump should, in essence, be fired as the head of the Republican Party. The opening to make that political argument is vanishingly small, open only for the most dexterous of political animals and maybe not even possible for them.
Something like this state of affairs may continue for the better part of the year, with Donald Trump dominating the race with no clear and credible challenger. Or we may see another candidate like Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin rocket forth like a GOP primary memestock harnessing the same latent Trump-skeptical votes that fueled Ron DeSantis’s rise in late 2022. But those boomlets are fueled by the hope that the chosen candidate might be able to unseat Trump rather than any particular attachment to the candidate themselves. So it can crater as quickly as it rises. Once it becomes clear they can’t unseat Trump, most of the support disintegrates.