Many Granite State voters opened their mailboxes this week to read the message “Make Republicans Lose Again.” It was part of an ad campaign from AFP Action, making the case to New Hampshire Republicans that former President Donald Trump’s “drama and chaos will make Republicans lose again,” according to the mailer.
“Don’t give Biden what he wants.”
But another round of polling shows that, for the moment, what Republicans want is Donald Trump.
At the national level, a new Morning Consult poll taken after the GOP debate found that 62 percent of potential primary voters believed Trump has the best chance of any Republican of beating President Joe Biden.
A new YouGov/Economist poll found Trump is the first choice of 51 percent of primary voters and the second choice of another 12 percent. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was the top pick of just 14 percent of those surveyed and the second choice of another 28 percent. Everyone else was in single digits.
That same poll found that 31 percent of Republican primary voters who watched the debate picked Vivek Ramaswamy — not DeSantis or former UN ambassador Nikki Haley — as the night’s best performer. Just 19 percent picked DeSantis, and 8 percent selected Haley.
Those numbers were close to the results of a New Hampshire poll by Trump pollster Fabrizio Lee and reported by Axios. It found Ramaswamy was viewed as the winner by 34 percent of Granite State Republicans who watched the debate. DeSantis and Haley tied for second at 16 percent.
The Fabrizio poll also showed Trump was the choice of 48 percent of likely primary voters, and 81 percent of those Trump supporters said they were “definitely committed, won’t change their minds.”
Trump supporters like Karoline Leavitt, spokeswoman for the pro-Trump MAGA, Inc. super PAC, are elated.
“We already know President Trump is going to win our New Hampshire Primary for the 3rd time. The only question that remains is who will finish more than 30 points behind him in second place,” Leavitt said.
Meanwhile, the state party leadership is rallying around Trump in the face of legal efforts to use the 14th Amendment to keep Trump off the 2024 general election ballot.
“There’s no question that we will fight, and we’ll use all of the tools available to us to fight anyone’s access being denied on the ballot,” said state GOP chairman Chris Ager. “And if there’s a lawsuit, we are likely to intervene on behalf of the candidate to make sure that they have access. So we take it very seriously that the people of New Hampshire should decide who the nominee is, not a judge, not a justice system.”
As for the argument that Trump is doomed to lose the general election, Trump supporters point to the latest polls showing Trump either neck-and-neck with Biden or beating him by a point or two. Trump is actually leading Biden in three of the five most recent polls posted by RealClearPolitics. Biden’s lead has fallen to 0.8 percent in the rolling average of polls.
And that is after four indictments, a mug shot, and skipping the debate.
Trump may be a volatile and chaotic candidate — in a recent radio interview, Trump said he would have “no choice” but to “lock up” some of his political opponents if he was elected president, for example. But as analysts at FiveThirtyEight have noticed, “Trump’s lead is not only large; it’s also been extremely durable.”
Their analysis found that “in the early national polls of all presidential nomination contests since 1972 through our primary polling average model… only four non-incumbents (out of 124 for whom we have early national polling data) have polled at Trump’s level (50 percent) or better as of the end of August of the year before the election.”
As Nate Cohn wrote for The New York Times, “In the half-century of modern presidential primaries, no candidate who led his or her nearest rival by at least 20 points at this stage has ever lost a party nomination.”
Republicans hoping for a non-Trump nominee point to the most recent UNH Survey Center poll with Trump under 40 percent among Republicans. And rumors abound regarding private polling showing Trump’s lead significantly lower than his 31-point lead in the RCP average.
“Donald Trump is beatable, and it starts in Iowa and New Hampshire,” Gov. Chris Sununu wrote in a New York Times op-ed last week. “Ignore the national polls that show he is leading; they are meaningless. It reflects the national conversation, name ID, and who is top of mind, not where the momentum is headed.”
Sununu insisted a majority of Granite State Republicans either don’t want Trump or are open to another option. The key, he said, is for the field of candidates to shrink and stop splitting the non-Trump vote.
“Provided the field shrinks by Iowa and New Hampshire, Mr. Trump loses. He will always have his diehard base, but the majority is up for grabs. Candidates who seize on the opportunity and present a clear contrast to the former president will earn the votes.”
But pollsters note Trump is the second choice of a significant number of GOP primary voters. And then there is the fundamental math about this election: Republicans like Trump. In fact, they like several of the presidential candidates. The approval numbers for Trump, DeSantis, Ramaswamy, and Haley are all well above water with Republican voters. It is the anti-Trump candidates like Mike Pence (-16) and Chris Christie (-36) who are struggling.
As for Democrats who are hoping the indictments and legal attacks will drive angry primary voters into Trump’s camp and make him the nominee, he had a message for them early Wednesday morning.
“Be careful what you wish for.”