It’s April but, with just 10 months to go, the clock is ticking down to January when the first two states (Iowa and New Hampshire) pick their favorites for president. The clear favorite for the Democrats is President Joe Biden, and for Republicans, former President Donald Trump. But neither contender can take their lead for granted, the latest I&I/TIPP Poll shows.
Look at the Democrats, for example. Biden is favored by 39% of Democrats and Democrat-leaning voters. That’s a four-point drop from 43% in March, according to the April online I&I/TIPP Poll of 662 Democrats/independents who lean Democrat, taken from March 29-31. The poll has a +/-4.0 percentage point margin of error.
Who’s No. 2? Well, it’s not a person. It’s “Not sure/Someone else,” which received 11% of the responses. The only other “challenger” within even sniffing distance of double digits is Michelle Obama, at 8%, the same reading as March.
What about Vice President Kamala Harris? Unable to reverse her flagging popularity, she actually fell in the latest poll, from 9% backing in March to just 7% in April.
Only Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has increased his tally, going from 3% support to 5% in April, a gain that’s still within the margin of error.
The Democrats’ two progressive possibles, Vermont socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (7% support) and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (4%) are little changed from the month before.
A handful of other potential challengers, including Hillary Clinton and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (both at 4%), California Gov. Gavin Newsom (3%), Virginia senator and former vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar both trail badly at just 2%.
Meanwhile, a number of other possibilities pick up only 1%: New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.
So while Biden might be slipping somewhat in his overall support, none of the likely challengers in the I&I/TIPP Poll show any real progress in cutting into his overall lead, which is nearly five times his nearest competitors’ total.
In fact, Biden has more support than his next six challengers combined.
As for the Republicans, former Trump dipped a bit to 47% support within his own party, down from 51%, perhaps affected by the media leaks and rumors of his indictment. A total of 456 Republicans/independents who lean Republican answered the GOP primary question. The margin of error is +/-5 percentage points.
His nearest challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, garnered 23% support in April, up a bit from 22% in March. Though it might not seem like a lot, it closed the point gap between him and Trump by 17%.
So DeSantis, at least for now, is clearly in the game. The same can’t be said for the other potential presidential candidates.
Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence gathered 5% support in our April poll, but that was down from 7% in both March and February. Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley is in fourth with 4% backing, the same as in March, but up from just 1% in February.
Another former Trump official, ex-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, collects 3% of GOP support. Meanwhile, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie trail at 1%.
Meanwhile, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu both tallied just a single vote apiece. That’s effectively 0%.
So far, with perhaps the exception of the popular Florida governor DeSantis, the GOP race seems to be shaking out to be Trump vs. everyone else. And right now, Trump wins hands down.
So what could change this picture?
Biden, it is widely agreed, at age 80 is suffering the infirmities of age, including frequent mumbling, lack of mental focus, confusion, trouble walking and stumbling, and now has tight limits imposed on the length of his work days in the White House.
It’s not partisan; it’s even become an issue among Democrats. Biden himself has said that it’s a “legitimate question to ask anybody over 70 years old whether or not they’re fit” to be president.
But age isn’t all. He faces a number of major issues with his presidential performance that could cost him primary votes against a potential challenger: A 6% inflation rate; soaring energy prices; the unraveling of American influence across the globe; renewed challenges from China and Russia; the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan which led to 12 American deaths and left military equipment worth $7 billion in the hands of the Taliban.
And many in his own party criticized Biden’s response to COVID-19, including favoring lockdowns that knocked the wind out of the economy but still let the disease claim hundreds of thousands of people. He has also taken direct shots in the media from liberal economists for the estimated $10 trillion in spending and trillions more added to our debt, now at $31 trillion and rising, during his presidency.
Many members to his left in the party have grown hostile to Biden. So have some in the left-media. A piece in the liberal Atlantic recently argued “The Case For A Primary Challenge To Joe Biden.”
OK, but what about Trump?
It’s clear that DeSantis looms as a major potential challenger. He easily raised a record $218 million last year for his re-election campaign as governor, and his super PAC dragged in another $30 million earlier this year. So, while Trump has the name recognition and strong GOP base support, DeSantis should be well-funded to challenge the former president, should he choose to do so.
As for the rest of the group, it’s highly unlikely that any will be able to knock Trump from his perch as the leading GOP candidate. Even so, it’s not impossible. A recent report on polling trends noted that in the 2016 Republican race, Trump won only 3% support on average in polls taken in the first half of the year before the primaries. That support jumped to 28.7% in the second half of the year.
So, yes, today’s 47% poll support for Trump looks unassailable. And our own February I&I/TIPP Poll found that, by 61% to 23%, Republican-leaning voters want Trump and DeSantis to fight it out during the 2024 GOP primaries. Right now, that looks like what it’ll be.
Based on name recognition and a very respectable track record as president, Trump would seem to have a lock on the nomination. His recent indictment on disputed charges by New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg likely will only solidify Trump’s hold on his base.
Can anyone beat him? At least one former Trump insider says yes.
“There’s one other person who could beat him – which is himself,” former Trump Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told CNN last year. “Donald Trump is sometimes his own worst enemy when it comes to campaigning.”
I&I/TIPP publishes timely, unique, and informative data each month on topics of public interest. TIPP’s reputation for polling excellence comes from being the most accurate pollster for the past five presidential elections.
Terry Jones is an editor of Issues & Insights. His four decades of journalism experience include serving as national issues editor, economics editor, and editorial page editor for Investor’s Business Daily.
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