Donald Trump The Prohibitive Favorite To Win The Republican Presidential Nomination, Political Scientists Say

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Former President Donald Trump is running for president for a third straight time.

The Republican won the election in 2016, lost in 2020, and is now pursuing his party’s nomination in hopes of beating President Joe Biden in the November 2024 general election.

As it stands, Trump is the frontrunner in the GOP race. The national polling average on FiveThirtyEight shows he has a commanding lead over the rest of the competition, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has 18.6 percent support.

So does that make Trump the prohibitive favorite to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination?

NewBostonPost asked several political scientists if Trump is the prohibitive favorite to win.

In some form or another, they all said yes.

New England College political scientist Wayne Lesperance said that regardless of what metric one uses, Trump is the most likely to win the Republican primaries.

“Donald Trump is the favorite to win the GOP nomination for President. By any fair measure — polling, coverage, money raised, organization, name-ID, and surrogates — former President Trump leads all-comers,” Lesperance told NewBostonPost in an email message. “In some cases, he leads the combined strength of all comers. It is difficult at this stage to imagine his displacement from the top position. That said, there are variables that could change the calculation including his ongoing and growing legal challenges. Even under those circumstances, however, an alternative candidate to Trump would have to be positioned to capitalize on his legal problems. To date, it’s not clear who that candidate might be.”

Iowa State University political scientist Mack Shelley also thinks of Trump as the frontrunner. He noted that scandals haven’t sunk Trump in the primary yet, and said that is unlikely to change.

“Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in most public opinion polls measuring support for the Republican 2024 presidential nomination, with only occasional evidence of slippage as news events unfold,” Shelley told NewBostonPost in an email message. “When indictments are issued against him in court proceedings, his base typically further solidifies and his campaign fundraising spikes upward. His mastery of making himself the storyline for millions of voters who internalize his rhetoric that their way of life and the country as they know it is under attack makes it difficult for other candidates to get polling points in edgewise.”

“But, this context does not make Trump invulnerable,” he added. “It appears very likely that during the heat of the Republican nomination campaign he may be in and out of various courtrooms as a criminal or civil defendant. At a minimum, that situation would provide a major distraction from the time on task required for rounding up prospective Republican National Convention delegates and voter support. Should he actually be incarcerated or possibly placed under house arrest, he could continue to campaign (as Eugene V. Debs campaigned for president from a jail cell in 1920) and could use his theme of mutual victimization to motivate continued voter and donor support. Fighting that version of a ‘two-front war,’ however, is likely to be way less productive than being able to get out on the hustings regularly to soak up the adulation of adoring MAGA crowds.”

Bridgewater State political scientist Michael Kryzaenk said that while Trump has been marred by controversy since the 2020 presidential election, he sees no sign of anyone overtaking Trump as the frontrunner in the Republican primary.

“Donald Trump continues to hold a commanding lead in the Republican popularity polls with Ron DeSantis at least 25% points behind,” Kryzanek told NewBostonPost in an email message. “The likely two future indictments on the January 6 insurrection and the Georgia vote/fake electors’ conspiracy may have some negative impact but not enough to change the current dynamics of the race. But what could have a real impact is fundraising and court appearances as the legal challenges Trump faces will continue on into the Spring and Summer of 2024. Trump supporters and donors may tire of all the negative publicity that will be unavoidable and begin to question his electability. He still will remain the front-runner but with small but obvious diminishing support. Meanwhile, Biden is raising major financial support and seeing his popularity take an upswing, especially among the key independent vote.”

Meanwhile, Boston College political scientist Dave Hopkins noted that, generally, Republicans know who Trump is — and they like him. Therefore, that makes him tough to beat. 

“I don’t know how exactly to define ‘prohibitive favorite,’ but it seems clear that Trump has maintained a strong lead among Republican primary voters so far,” Hopkins told NewBostonPost in an email message. “He has the advantage of being well-known and well-liked among most Republicans, and his opponents are not as well-established. It’s an unusual situation to have a former incumbent running to regain the presidency after defeat, but it gives him a status as a kind of default option and the burden is on his opponents to make a case against him, which they have yet to convincingly do.”

While Trump’s high polling numbers are one reason why many consider him the frontrunner in the race, UMass Boston political scientist Erin O’Brien raised another issue. She said the splitting of the anti-Trump vote in the primary gives him a big advantage.

“Former President Trump is indeed the prohibitive favorite for the GOP presidential nomination — far ahead in polling and fundraising facing a large GOP field who will split the remaining vote in the primaries making it easier for Trump to win,” O’Brien told NewBostonPost in an email message. “Two impeachments, an insurrection, and indictments leave him only marginally weakened amongst Republican primary voters.”

And UMass Boston political scientist Maurice Cunningham, who is no fan of the former president, said he cannot picture anyone else getting the nomination next year.

“The Republican Party has debased and corrupted itself to such an extent that it is hard to imagine a presidential nominee other than Donald Trump,” Cunningham told NewBostonPost in an email message.


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