Trump tops Biden in polls

Former President Trump is facing 91 felony counts in four criminal cases. He was impeached twice and left office under ignominious circumstances. Many of his former top advisers have turned into ardent critics.

And yet, several polls released in the past few weeks, including one on Sunday by NBC News, show him leading President Biden in battleground states and nationally in a hypothetical rematch in 2024.

Experts and strategists point to several reasons polling indicates many Americans appear willing to give Trump another chance at the White House despite all his baggage, including voter discontent with Biden, while acknowledging plenty can change a year out from Election Day.

“They’re both just incredibly weak candidates, but I definitely think people have to have short memories, and they forget how chaotic the Trump years were, and they’re focused on the now,” said Sarah Matthews, a former Trump campaign and White House spokesperson who resigned after the events of Jan. 6, 2021. 

Matthews pointed to inflation, instability around the world and concerns about Biden’s age as reasons voters have been reluctant to back the incumbent president at this point.

“Because of their concerns about Biden’s age and his leadership thus far, it just makes people look back on the Trump years more fondly in a way,” Matthews said. “These people are more reluctantly supporting Trump rather than enthusiastically supporting Trump, and that’s why when you see any other Republican against Biden, Biden gets crushed.”

An NBC News poll released Sunday found Trump leading Biden 46 percent to 44 percent among registered voters, which fell within the poll’s margin of error. It was a slight shift from September, when the two were tied at 46 percent.

A Yahoo News/YouGov poll released this week found Trump leading Biden 44 percent to 42 percent. That poll also found 9 percent of respondents were unsure of who they would vote for, and another 5 percent said they were not planning to vote.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed Trump with 48 percent support compared to 46 percent for Biden. The poll found 52 percent of voters said they would like to see other candidates on the ballot in the 2024 presidential race.

Experts explained that the spate of polls is a snapshot of how voters feel in the moment, not necessarily how they will vote in one year. And they suggested Trump’s strong showing against Biden is likely a reflection of discontent with the incumbent more than a show of support for the likely GOP nominee.

“Some of these polls are really in a way approval ratings of President Biden, which we know are not great,” said Grant Reeher, director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at Syracuse University. “So it’s not so much people saying I’d rather have Donald Trump than Joe Biden, it’s people saying I’m not happy with where the country is going, and I want an alternative.”

Reeher also noted many voters may not be paying close attention to Trump’s various legal cases, but that could change as they go to trial next year.

Republican strategists and some former Trump officials believe the polls show how Trump has remained exceedingly popular with the GOP base, giving him a solid floor of support. 

Trump is leading his Republican primary rivals by an average of nearly 60 percentage points in national polls, and he leads by more than 20 percentage points in nearly every state-level primary poll, underscoring his support within the party.

“The biggest difference between Biden and Trump is Trump probably has the most devoted, almost cult-like base in his own party of anyone we’ve ever seen in the last century of American politics. Biden just doesn’t have that,” said Rob Stutzman, a California-based GOP strategist.

Some Republicans also argued it was evidence voters trust Trump on the economy, an issue that is exceedingly important to many Americans.

One former Trump White House official argued the state of the economy — and voter discontent with Biden’s handling of it — ultimately could benefit Trump with the types of suburban voters who swung from Trump to Biden from 2016 to 2020.

The latest NBC News poll found 38 percent of voters approve of Biden’s handling of the economy, up by 1 point from September.

While the polls have set off a wave of anxiety among some Democrats, other Biden allies have argued it’s far too early to draw sweeping conclusions from the results. 

They have noted plenty can change in the next year, and voters may feel better about the economy next November if inflation continues to decline. Strategists also believe voters will feel less inclined to back Trump once he is clearly the nominee, especially after millions of dollars are spent by the Biden campaign and other groups to highlight Trump’s record and incendiary comments.

Matt Bennett, a co-founder of the left-center think tank Third Way, argued polls at this point provide voters an outlet for a referendum on the person in office, while the election itself presents a clear choice about the future of the country.

“Fundamentally they’re going to have to go into that booth and choose between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, two people they will know very very well,” Bennett said. “And the question is going to be do they vote for the guy who may have disappointed them, or do they vote for the guy who they think is crazy.”

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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