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Trump is even stronger than he seems against his Republican rivals

Polls continue to show Donald Trump with a huge lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. However, many of his opponents continue to avoid attacking the former US president. They may be doing this in hopes of eliminating every non-Trump competitor before taking on Trump himself.

The problem with this plan is that it won’t work. Trump’s rivals have to do something different to take him down. Unlike 2016, when there were signs that he could be defeated in a one-on-one confrontation (which never happened), Trump has more advantages this time.

He is up more than 40 points nationally when compared to his closest rivals (Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley). More than that, he gets more than 60% of the Republican vote. Even if his rivals managed to consolidate themselves into a super candidate, Trump would still win majority support.

This is very different from where we were at this point in the 2016 cycle. Trump was getting somewhere around 25% to 30% of the Republican Party vote nationally.

Furthermore, it’s not entirely clear whether any of his 2024 rivals can unite Republican primary voters who don’t support Trump. Consider a Marquette University Law School survey from last month.

Trump won 57% of the vote in this national poll when compared to all of his Republican competitors. When facing just DeSantis, Trump’s support jumped to 65%. When compared to just Haley, he got 70% of the vote.

We didn’t see such numbers in 2016, when Trump was on track to secure the Republican Party’s nomination. Still in March 2016, an ABC News/Washington Post poll revealed that Trump was behind Marco Rubio (51% to 45%) and Ted Cruz (54% to 41%) in a hypothetical individual poll.

In other words, at that time there was a legitimate argument for Trump’s rivals to hope to become the last candidate to face him. Today, it doesn’t make much sense.

The same applies when we focus on the first state polls, although Trump is weaker there than at the national level. Trump is the first or second choice of most Republican caucus attendees or primary voters in both Iowa (55% in the latest Des Moines Register poll) and New Hampshire (54% in the latest CNN/UNH poll).

The fact is that support for Trump among Republican voters is actually stronger than his main rivals could imagine. One of the best ways to assess a candidate’s support ceiling is to look at their “favorable” and “very favorable” ratings. The latter, especially, is important in primaries, when most candidates share the same party label as voters and are liked.

Trump’s “very favorable” rating was 51% among Republicans in last month’s Marquette poll. His “favorable” rating recently averaged 76% among Republicans nationally.

No other Republican candidate has such a high support rating among the party’s base. No other Republican has a “very favorable” rating that is even half as good as Trump in the Marquette poll.

These numbers hold true in Iowa and New Hampshire. Trump has the best “favorable” ratings of any candidate among GOP voters.

Trump’s numbers were considerably weaker at this point in the 2016 cycle. His “favorable” ratings were 15 to 20 points lower, depending on the poll. Their “very favorable” ratings were 20 to 30 points lower.

It’s hard to believe, but a November 2015 Bloomberg poll showed several other Republican candidates and former President George W. Bush with stronger favorable and very favorable ratings among Republican voters. Trump had even worse ratings than Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney.

In the most recent Republican debate – which Trump did not attend, as in all the previous ones – his 2024 Republican rivals, with the exception of Chris Christie, seemed more interested in going after each other than taking on Trump. This has held true in all four GOP debates this year.

The result of this was Trump solidifying his advantage at the national level, with no signs of the leader moving away.

Now, it’s unclear whether going after Trump directly would work for his main rivals. Christie, who has consistently criticized Trump, has terrible ratings among Republicans. This may be part of the reason why Trump’s adversaries seem to be allowing him to sail through unscathed.

What is clear is that whatever Trump’s competitors are doing now simply isn’t working. They need to do something different.

With just over a month until the Iowa caucuses, time is running out for them to fill the gap with Trump.

Source: CNN Brasil

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