“That’s right. Joe Biden is on political death row. And yet, in the same poll that has delivered his death warrant, he still beats Donald Trump in a head-to-head matchup,” Cooke wrote. “If Republican primary voters look at this information and decide to nominate Trump again anyway, they will have nobody to blame for the consequences but themselves.”
While Cooke arguably had a point that someone as politically dead as Biden shouldn’t be leading in any hypothetical match-up poll, I thought it was bizarre for him to be writing Trump’s political obituary based on one match-up poll. Hasn’t Cooke ever heard of outliers? And before we even talk about other polls, I should point out that Biden’s edge was within the poll’s margin of error.
As for other polls, Trump leads Biden in the overwhelming majority of them—including four that have been conducted since the NYT poll that Cooke claimed was the death knell for Trump’s political career. The latest Trafalgar poll had Trump beating Biden by five points, and the latest Emerson poll had Trump up by three.
Trump’s lead in the RealClearPolitics average of 2024 match-up polls has also gone up from +1.7, when Cooke pronounced him politically dead, to +2.0 now.
And that doesn’t include the latest Premise Poll, which showed Americans choosing President Trump over Joe Biden in a hypothetical 2024 matchup by a six-point margin—53% to 47%.
Trump is also the runaway favorite of Republican primary voters, easily beating Mike Pence by 58 points and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis by 28 points.
And Trump performs just as well against Biden as both Mike Pence (who beats Biden by eight points) and Ron DeSantis (who beats Biden by six points). This doesn’t sound like Trump is politically dead to me. If Trump was as politically toxic as Cooke suggested, Trump would have performed significantly worse than Pence or DeSantis.
The poll also found that while 60% of respondents do not believe Biden should run for president in 2024, 82% say they approve of “the possibility of Trump candidacy” in 2024, with 55% strongly approving and 27% somewhat approving.
So, clearly, Cooke was wrong. Trump is far from being politically dead. But, as I pointed out then, this doesn’t mean that he’s not underperforming where we might expect him to be against someone as politically toxic as Biden. Perhaps the real question isn’t whether Trump is politically dead or not—because he clearly isn’t—but why he isn’t performing significantly better against Biden than Pence or DeSantis. As a former president, Trump arguably should be outperforming any potential 2024 rival against Biden.
Is Trump’s baggage hurting him? Despite Trump’s lead in the polls, DeSantis is a rising star in the party, and if Trump ended up not running, the Florida governor would be the runaway favorite of Republican primary voters. It’s questionable whether DeSantis would run if Trump jumps in.
“Unless there’s something coming out of left field I don’t see coming, it’s his nomination if he wants it,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said last year. “The Republican base appreciated him. We don’t appreciate all the things he does sometimes. But from a policy point of view, he was the most successful president from a conservative’s point of view since Ronald Reagan.”
Graham said earlier this month that he’d pick Trump over DeSantis. “I like Ron DeSantis, but I know what I’m getting with Trump. The good and the bad and everything in between. Trump sounds pretty good to me right now.”