Sunday, January 22, 2023


Rolling Stone's Kara Voght and Tessa Stuart report on a straw poll of the 2024 Republican presidential race that's significant, but not just for the reasons Voght and Stuart think it is:
Anti-Abortion Voters Have Picked an Early 2024 Favorite. It’s Not Trump

TWO THOUSAND ATTENDEES at the National Pro-Life Summit cast their votes on Saturday for their favorite prospective GOP nominee for president in 2024. The winner is: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis....

DeSantis banked more than half of the votes cast, 53.73 percent. Former President Donald Trump placed in a distant second with just 19.22 percent. His former deputy, Mike Pence — who has called often for a national ban on abortion — took home roughly eight percent. Those three were followed by former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, with 1.57 and 1.37 percent, respectively. Everyone else — Kristi Noem, Greg Abbott, Glenn Youngkin, Liz Cheney, Larry Hogan, and Tim Scott, in that order — earned less than one percent of ballots cast. About seven percent of the poll’s voters remain undecided on their preferred would-be candidate.
Voght and Stuart seize on the voters' rejection of Trump, and that's a fairly big deal. But this was a gathering of people who are focused on the issue of abortion, and they chose Ron DeSantis, who's not known as one of the most anti-abortion contenders foe 2024. DeSantis signed a fifteen-week abortion ban and hinted that he might sign a six-week ban, but never explicitly said he would (“I’m willing to sign great life legislation” is how he put it). He was chosen over Mike Pence, Greg Abbott, Kristi Noem, and Ted Cruz, all of whom are anti-abortion absolutists. Presumably the attendees are anti-abortion absolutists themselves, but they didn't choose one of their own.

You can argue that they chose familiar names, which might explain the low vote totals for, say, Kristi Noem -- but how can DeSantis be better known than Mike Pence? Clearly, even these apparent one-issue absolutists are choosing based on a different issue: Does this candidate relentlessly own the libs?

If even these voters are going with DeSantis, then DeSantis and Trump are shrewd not to stake out the most absolutist anti-abortion position possible. I'm not saying we couldn't end up with DeSantis or Trump signing draconian national abortion legislation, but anti-abortion maximalism won't be the key to success in the GOP primaries.

But this poll is terrible news for Trump, right? Well, it's not good news -- but it might be consistent with other polling showing Trump in the lead.

The principal sponsor of the National Pro-Life Summit is Students for Life. That suggests that the attendees are educated, or at least are becoming educated. To judge from the photos on the summit's website, the attendees skew very young:

That's not good for Trump because as I've noted, polls show that DeSantis does best against him with the elderly (who presumably are retired and are therefore watching the most Fox News).

But those same polls say that Trump's supporters are the least educated Republicans. The kids at this summit seem as if they're in college or are planning to go. They're networking. Trump's supporters might not all be proletatarian -- many of his non-college supporters seem to own small businesses -- but they're still distinct from this crowd. If they stick with him, he's still in the race. But the lack of support for hardcore anti-abortion extremists even in this crowd tells me that it's still a two-candidate race.

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