Thursday, January 12, 2023


Donald Trump is officially a candidate for president again, but his heart doesn't seem to be in the campaign:
Former President Donald Trump is planning to hold his first public campaign event of the year in South Carolina, in what aides are portraying as a first step into a more public phase of his 2024 White House run.

Trump is slated to make an appearance in late January in Columbia, S.C. It will not be a rally, his advisers said, but will be a more “intimate” event where he will roll out his leadership operation in a state which hosts a key early Republican primary contest....

Trump has not held any of his trademark rallies since the end of the midterm election – prompting chatter that he is starting the campaign in a state of political weakness....
Is this a sluggish start to the campaign? Trump staffers say of course not!
During a Wednesday interview with POLITICO, senior Trump advisers Brian Jack, Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles pushed back on the idea that Trump had so far run a low-energy effort, pointing to his opening of a campaign headquarters in West Palm Beach, Fla., his activity in key primary states over the course of the 2022 midterm election and the initial build-out of senior staff.
He opened a campaign headquarters! That's exciting, right? And during the midterms (a separate election cycle) Trump did a lot of campaigning for Republican candidates (except when they asked him not to)! Also: staff build-out! That has voters' hearts pumping, right?
Trump’s advisers are casting the plans as part of a gradual build-out of the former president’s campaign, following a relatively private month-and-a-half since a November launch that coincided with the holiday season.
So it was the holiday season that prevented Trump from holding any recent rallies? Let me remind you that Trump held nine rallies -- including two in one day, one in Michigan and the other in Louisiana -- in December 2016, the peak of the holiday season, after he'd won the presidency. The campaign was over and he was still holding rallies! There were ten rallies in 2017 (when he should have been busy learning how to be president) and forty-five rallies during the 2018 midterm campaign. He held thirty-three rallies during the 2020 primary campaign, even though he was effectively running unopposed. The first of those rallies was in February 2019.

So Trump's heart isn't in it, or he's distracted by all his legal troubles. Nevertheless, he seems to be well positioned to sleepwalk his way to the nomination, as FiveThirtyEight's Nathaniel Rakich notes after looking at the polls.
When pollsters ask about a two-person race between [Ron] DeSantis and Trump, DeSantis is usually ahead. A simple average of head-to-head national polls taken since the midterms puts DeSantis at 48 percent and Trump at 43 percent....

But in polls with more than two candidates in the field, Trump almost always leads. In national polling questions that included DeSantis, Trump and at least one other potential candidate, Trump has an average lead of 41 percent to 31 percent since the midterms. (No one else comes close.)
(Maybe you think it's too soon to look at polling, but Rakich believes we can start taking polls seriously now: "As FiveThirtyEight’s Geoffrey Skelley has written, national polls conducted in the calendar year before the election are fairly predictive of who will eventually win the nomination.")

Trump can win the nomination as a low-energy candidate as long as the mainstream media and GOP insiders and donors continue to encourage futile runs by no-hopers like Glenn Youngkin, not to mention the many Trump-hating candidates who seem determined to run. (John Bolton? Chris Sununu? Asa Hutchinson?) It'll be a very divided field, and under those circumstances, even a lazy septuagenarian retiree can probably coast to the nomination on residual goodwill.

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