Hoo boy: Poll shows DeSantis within three points of Trump in Michigan

AP Photo/John Raoux

The more these encouraging polls for DeSantis pile up, the more tempted Trump will be to start tearing him down early, maybe even before this fall’s gubernatorial election in Florida.


Which will be risky for both men in the extreme. If Trump’s attacks on DeSantis convince some MAGA voters in Florida to stay home, DeSantis’s margin of victory in November will be thinner than expected. The big “electability” pitch he’s planning in 2024 will be damaged, if not destroyed.

On the other hand, Trump will make enemies on the right if he resorts to badmouthing DeSantis when he’s about to face the voters in a key swing state. It’s one thing for him to attack a Republican rival for his own benefit. It’s another for him to attack one at a moment when Democrats would stand to benefit.

A new Detroit News poll has it 45/42 between Trump and DeSantis in Michigan, within the margin of error. Anxiety must be rising at Mar-a-Lago over numbers like that. Yesterday I speculated that enough discouraging data for Trump might get him to reconsider running or to drop out early on some pretext if he does. But, Trump being Trump, it’s equally possible that it’ll lead him to go scorched-earth on his rival before DeSantis is prepared in hopes of halting the governor’s rise.

Trump’s favorability rested at 76% in the July 13-15 poll compared to the 84% favorability margin he garnered in a poll of primary voters in early May that was conducted by Czuba’s Glengariff Group and commissioned by The Detroit Regional Chamber…

When asked about a prospective Trump-DeSantis matchup, college-educated Republicans said they supported DeSantis by a 51% to 37% margin, while Republican voters with a high school diploma supported Trump 55% to 29%.

Among “Trump Republicans,” or those who indicated they were more a supporter of Trump than the party, Trump led the race against DeSantis 71% to 24%; and among “Classic Republicans,” those who answered they were more a supporter of the Republican Party than Trump, DeSantis led 53% to 33%, according to the poll.


Last week brought lots of chatter in political media about the realignment among voters that’s drawing college-educated whites into the Democratic fold while sending working-class voters of all races towards the GOP. You can see a miniature version of that dynamic at work within the Republican Party in Michigan in these numbers. Republicans divide between Trump and DeSantis along educational lines as well, with blue-collar GOPers preferring the former guy and college-educated GOPers preferring the new one.

Which doesn’t bode well for DeSantis, as Michigan is below average across the 50 states in terms of the share of its population that’s college educated. Richard Czuba, the pollster who conducted the survey, mentions another point that doesn’t bode well for him. “It’s easy to think, ‘Oh, [Trump’s] going to have a race,’ but there is not likely going to be a one-on-one race for the nomination,” he told the Detroit News. “Donald Trump secures nearly half the vote off the top and the only way to defeat him is through a one-on-one race, which is not likely.”

That’s a potentially insuperable problem for DeSantis fans and/or anti-Trumpers on the right. DeSantis could beat Trump in a one-on-one primary on “electability” grounds. But it’s hard to imagine him successfully engineering a one-on-one race with figures as well-known as Mike Pence already moving towards running. Everyone recognizes, or should recognize, the potential for a replay of the 2016 primaries if a crowded field divvies up the 60 percent of the party that doesn’t want Trump as nominee and leaves him to cruise to victory with the 40 percent that does. I’m naively hoping that there’ll be an effort among major donors after the midterms to try to convince no-hopers like Pence, Mike Pompeo, Tom Cotton, Nikki Haley that there’ll be no money for them if they choose to run next year, as DeSantis is the only plausible ticket out of Trumpville. Whatever pressure needs to be applied to keep pretenders from disrupting the party’s only chance to defeat Trump by jumping in and diluting the “Anyone But Trump” vote should be applied.


But I doubt it’ll work. If anything, Trump will probably recruit a stalking horse or two of his own to run for president with promises of favors if it leads to him being successfully reelected. I’m convinced we’ll see someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene run for the sole purpose of attacking DeSantis for Trump’s benefit.

DeSantis has another problem, as my pal Karl keeps reminding me. Eventually he’s going to have to address the subject of whether he believes the 2020 election was stolen and there’s no answer he can plausibly give that won’t alienate one of the factions he’s wooing. If he gives a full-throated “yes, it was stolen” defense, he’ll come off as a crank to some of those higher-educated Republicans who are hoping to leave behind Trumpism. But if he gives a tepid defense — “I don’t think it was rigged but there were irregularities and dubious rule changes” etc — some MAGA voters who are DeSantis-curious will conclude that he’s not a “fighter” after all. In fact, the Detroit News poll asked Michigan GOPers whether they believe Trump that the election was stolen or whether they believe the investigation of Republican leaders in the state senate, which found that no fraud occurred. Result: 59/26 for Trump.

Is this party dumb enough to pass over a young populist nominee with a very good chance of winning in 2024 for an elderly twice-impeached retread who’s 50/50 at best, simply because it can’t cope with the thought that Biden won? Probably, yeah.


Lastly, it’s an open question whether any Republican can attack Trump without fatally alienating a huge chunk of MAGA voters. Look again at the excerpt above and reflect on the number of Republicans who consider themselves more loyal to Trump than to the party. Even if DeSantis sticks to criticizing Trump from the right, such as by complaining that he was too acquiescent when Fauci and Deborah Birx demanded lockdowns early during the pandemic, the MAGA diehards may be so offended by DeSantis’s “disloyalty” that he ends up losing them irretrievably. For some righties, Trumpism is more of a cult than it is a movement within the party, which means it doesn’t matter if you’re attacking him from the right or the left. Attacking the leader is treason, period. And they’re not going to support a traitor as nominee.

It’ll be fun watching battle lines within the party be drawn, though. Speaking of which, I’ll leave you with former Fox News guy and current Newsmax guy Eric Bolling staking out his new network’s allegiance to Trump in contrast to what he perceives as Fox News’s growing allegiance to DeSantis.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on HotAir Videos