Too Tired of Trump
Three years ago, in the thick of the 2020 presidential campaign, I argued that “the craziness is exhausting people”—that many of the voters who put Trump in office in 2016 were tiring of his shtick. I saw this in the polls, and heard it from the old coots who loved him for giving voice to their grievances, from the underemployed high-school-educated rural residents who think city people get more than them, and from suburbanites who think the government takes too much of their money.
Now, as the 2024 campaign cranks into motion, with Trump hoping for a comeback even while in legal peril, I get the sense again that these people are exhausted. You hear little excitement about Trump’s candidacy when you hang around in bars and coffee shops and parks, talking to a whole host of different types of people in critical rural, suburban, and former industrial parts of Pennsylvania (think Erie or Beaver Falls), Michigan (think of Oakland and Macomb Counties), and Wisconsin (think of Racine or Kenosha).
Obama won those three states in 2012. Trump won them in 2016. And Biden won them in 2020. Tie up all three of those states and you’ve pretty much won the presidency in 2024.
In those places, there is little interest, at least at this early date, in Trump’s antics and his angry insistence that his legal prosecution is really a political persecution. Mainly there’s silence—a telling silence. Think about what we saw on the day of Trump’s arraignment last week: Sure, there were protests and counterprotests around the courthouse in New York City, but did we get any in the Rust Belt? The Midwest?
This is not to say that the extremists—on both sides of the aisle—are not out there. But the public in general is tired.
Let’s turn to the data—such as it is at this early date. When you look at what the polls so far say about public opinion on Trump’s indictment, you’ll find that the silence over his legal travails is indicative of bigger problems ahead for his 2024 campaign.
- Within the Republican party, the indictment news has not dented his popularity—if anything, he seems to have gotten a slight bump in polls.
- But an ABC/Ipsos poll rapidly conducted last week after the indictment found that the number of Americans—including, crucially, political independents—who believe Trump broke the law and should have been indicted was rising. It also shows that a rising percentage of Americans, nearly half now, believe Trump should suspend his re-election campaign.
- Nationally, Trump’s “unfavorable” rating is higher than Biden’s (55-53), and his “favorable” rating slightly lower (43-37).
- In recent polls in the Midwest states that are so important, Biden again shows an advantage. In Michigan, Biden leads Trump by 4 to 7 percent, in Pennsylvania by 7 percent.
While the latest Wisconsin poll in the presidential race is from last October, we can look as a proxy at the state’s Supreme Court race that ended last week. Some polls had the race listed as too close to call, but liberal Judge Janet Protasiewicz clobbered her archconservative opponent Dan Kelly. It doesn’t seem likely that the abortion issue, important as it was in the state, could account for her margin of victory—11 percentage points.
This huge win for the cheesehead libs is even more impressive when you look at the state’s recent elections. Trump beat Hillary Clinton by about 23,000 votes in Wisconsin in 2016. But then in 2020 Biden beat Trump by about 21,000; in 2022, incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers beat his Republican challenger by about 90,000; and last week, Protasiewicz won by more than 200,000 votes. The direction is clear, and it would be difficult for any candidate to reverse by next year.
In Pennsylvania and Michigan, the change is also very apparent. Trump may have beat Clinton by 44,000 in Pennsylvania, but in 2022 Democrat Josh Shapiro won the governorship by almost 800,000 votes. In Michigan, nearly the same situation: Trump beat Clinton by about 11,000 votes but Democrat Gretchen Whitmer was re-elected governor last year by about 470,000 votes.
Clearly, the overall direction in those three crucial states does not favor Trump.
And while lot can happen in the nineteen months between now and the Election Day 2024, several of the news stories we can already anticipate are likely to add to voters’ exhaustion with Trump. These include what happens in Georgia with the allegations about Trump’s 2020 election results tampering, as well as the Department of Justice investigations of the January 6th insurrection and the Mar-a-Lago classified documents pilfering.
Barring some fundamental transformation of the race, Trump will likely find it an ordeal to get back to anything like the kind of enthusiasm he used enjoy.