- Former President Donald Trump continues to dominate the crowded Republican primary field as he makes his third bid for the White House.
- Polling analysts emphasized how “unprecedented” and “unique” this cycle is, considering a former president is heavily in the lead with two federal indictments under his belt, they told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- “This GOP primary is truly unprecedented, because Trump is not technically an incumbent, but Republican voters seem to be treating him as at least a quasi-incumbent,” Kyle Kondik, nonpartisan polling analyst and managing editor for Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told the DCNF.
Former President Donald Trump continues to dominate the early primary season in an unprecedented third bid for the White House, polling experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
This Republican primary cycle is like none other as the frontrunner is a former president, has a massive lead in the polls, his former vice president is running against him and Trump has two federal indictments under his belt. Polling analysts stressed to the DCNF the stark difference between this GOP primary season and previous cycles, arguing that it’s difficult to draw comparisons in modern history.
“This GOP primary is truly unprecedented, because Trump is not technically an incumbent, but Republican voters seem to be treating him as at least a quasi-incumbent,” Kyle Kondik, a nonpartisan polling analyst and managing editor for Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told the DCNF. “This primary is similar to 2016 in the sense that the field is large, meaning that it’ll be hard for a non-Trump to consolidate the non-Trump supporters.”
Kondik also noted that the former president’s legal troubles pose another “unique” angle to the primary, which the analyst argued makes it difficult to draw similarities between this election and previous cycles. Trump’s two indictments could cause “fatigue” among the GOP, leading to a drop in the polls, but Kondik doesn’t see signs of his support currently lagging.
In late March, the former president was indicted by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for allegedly falsifying business records when paying back former attorney Michael Cohen for giving porn star actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 in hush money to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Trump. In early June, Trump was indicted by a federal judge in Miami, Florida, for alleged violation of the Espionage Act, along with several other charges like obstruction and making false statements, related to Special Counsel Jack Smith’s probe into the alleged mishandling of classified documents.
Jon McHenry, a GOP polling analyst and vice president at North Star Opinion Research, also stressed how unprecedented this Republican primary is and argued Trump’s reshaping of the party, paired with his indictment by the Manhattan district attorney, have helped the former president dominate the polls.
“This really is a unique cycle, at least since we’ve used primaries and caucuses as the primary vehicle to nominate our presidential candidates. In that time, we haven’t had an incumbent president lose a reelection and run again, much less lead in the polls,” McHenry told the DCNF. “President Trump’s lead right now is in part a testament to the extent to which he reshaped the party from a conservative party to a populist party.”
“With the New York charges in particular being seen as politically motivated and questionable legally — with a very different context than holding top secret documents in an unsecure location — the Republicans who might have been ready to move on to a fresh face have at least for now rallied back to the former president,” McHenry said.
Trump maintains a strong lead in key early primary state polls among a crowded field of Republican presidential contenders, according to FiveThirtyEight. The former president is currently ahead in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina by 23 points, 28 points, 30 points and 23 points, respectively.
The RealClearPolitics (RCP) average for the 2024 national Republican primary, based on polls conducted between June 10 and June 26, indicate Trump is leading the GOP field by over 30 points, with only one other candidate, DeSantis, consistently polling in the double digits at 20.9%. Former Vice President Mike Pence has a RCP average of 6.1% support.
The current polling data illustrates the stark differences between this cycle and the two previous crowded GOP primary fields, as there wasn’t as clear of a frontrunner in the summers preceding the election years.
In 2015, just ahead of the Republican primary debates’ kickoff, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was in the lead with only 19% support, according to a late June CNN/ORC International poll, compared to Trump’s current RCP average of 53%. Bush was leading a similarly crowded field of GOP candidates by 7 points, followed by then-candidate Trump, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at 12%, 8%, 7% and 7%, respectively.
In 2011, a Republican primary survey from late June indicated that the top four contenders for the 2012 election held double digit support, with the eventual nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, inching out ahead of the crowded field by 6 points, followed by former New York City Mayor Rudi Giuliani, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin with 13%, 13% and 11%, respectively, according to a McClatchy-Marist poll.
“Is there a comparable election? Nope. And that’s fine,” Nathan Klein, pollster for OnMessage Inc., told the DCNF. “The one thing Americans, and especially the GOP primary electorate, don’t want is to do things the way they have been done.”
2024 GOP Primary Polling Trends among likely voters by Echelon Insights (A/B)
Trump — 36% (+2)
DeSantis — 34%
Trump — 46% (+15)
DeSantis — 31%
Trump — 49% (+23)
DeSantis — 26%
Trump — 49% (+30)
DeSantis — 19%
Trump — 49% (+33)
DeSantis — 16% pic.twitter.com/Ve9hn4RWgs
— InteractivePolls (@IAPolls2022) July 4, 2023
John McLaughlin, CEO and partner of McLaughlin & Associates, a polling firm that works closely with the former president’s campaign, told the DCNF that Trump’s massive lead in the polls is attributable to President Joe Biden’s administration indicting the former president and argued it’s also “historic” that Trump is leading Biden in general election matchups.
The RCP average for a 2024 head-to-head rematch between Trump and Biden, based on polls conducted between June 8 and June 27, indicates the former president is leading by 0.6 points.
“Compared to Trump’s success — on the economy, on national security, on the border and other issues — Biden’s failures are glaring, and there’s really a lot of buyer’s remorse. President Trump is leading in the national popular vote, and Republicans have not seen that since 2004,” McLaughlin said. “This is historic in multiple ways, but I think the epitome of it is that Joe Biden has indicted his political opponent, his leading political opponent — that’s never happened in American history. That’s what happens in communist countries.”
“President Trump continues to dominate in poll after poll — both nationally and statewide,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung told the DCNF. “He is the only person who is beating Joe Biden by significant margins because voters know President Trump’s return to the White House means a strong economy, a secure border, and a safer America.”
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