| The Rose Report |

Wishful Thinking Won’t Make Trump Go Away

How can Trump be leading Biden when one out of every four voters in Republican primaries voted for someone else? Can the national polls be that far off, or are other factors at play?

A funny thing is happening on the road to the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.

Many anti-Trumpers who thought they’d thrown in the towel after Donald Trump locked up the Republican nomination in early March have found something to reignite their interest in the race.

Nikki Haley, the most defiant Trump challenger, is still garnering a double-digit share of voters in the Republican primaries two months after dropping out of the race, even as she quietly settles into her new role at the conservative Hudson Institute think-tank.

Haley won close to 22% of the vote in last week’s Republican primary in Indiana and 16% in the Pennsylvania primary in the last week of April. In all the 2024 primaries before press time, the former South Carolina governor and pro-Israel UN ambassador has landed 20% of the vote, limiting Trump, the clear frontrunner, to just 75%.

Her continued strong showing sparked a weekend report in Axios that Haley was once more in the running to be Trump’s vice presidential pick — a story the Trump campaign team quickly shot down before it could turn into another Haley surge piece for anti-Trumpers who’ve overeaten at the trough of wishful thinking.

After all this, the Real Clear Politics Average poll shows Trump with a narrow lead over Biden in the national popular vote, and a commanding lead in the Electoral College (312–226) when assigning all the toss-up states to the candidate currently leading, no matter how slim the margin.

On the surface, it looks incongruous. How can Trump be leading Biden when one out of every four voters in Republican primaries voted for someone else? Can the national polls be that far off, or are other factors at play?

I posed this question to two political savants who shared their insights.

John McLaughlin, CEO at McLaughlin and Associates, who has conducted some polling for Trump, said that Haley’s best showings were in states such as New Hampshire, where voters can cross over and vote in Republican primaries even if they’re registered Democrats, or have no party affiliation. This trend began early, in New Hampshire and South Carolina, where McLaughlin says up to 20% of Republican primary voters view Biden favorably and have a history of voting in Democratic primaries. These voters “invaded” the Republican primary, as he put it, to cast a ballot against Trump.

“They are Biden voters who didn’t see a contest on their side and decided to cast an early vote against Trump,” McLaughlin said. “It doesn’t affect the national polls. Trump is still winning.”

Sean Trende, senior elections analyst at Real Clear Politics added that a lot (his emphasis) of Republicans view Biden as a complete and utter disaster who will bring the Republic to ruin. “They are voting for Haley either because they worry Trump will lose [to Biden], or just as a protest vote before they hold their nose and vote for Trump [in November],” Trende contends.

Chris Stirewalt, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), writes that the headlines we see declaring “Trump leads Biden in six of seven swing states” are accurate, but it would be more useful to say that “Biden trails Trump.” Stirewalt cites the Decision Desk HQ average poll, which shows Biden lagging his 2020 final election result by almost 6% in the critical states he won in 2020, including Nevada, Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, while Trump is underperforming by just 1% in those states compared to 2020.

“This suggests not that Trump is taking votes from Biden, but that Biden’s 2020 supporters haven’t returned to him,” Stirewalt writes.

Biden’s slippage is most noticeable in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where nearly six in every ten voters rate the national economy as either “not so good” or “poor.”

Sentiment could change if perceptions of the economy improve over the next six months, but if Biden loses Rust Belt states, Democrats will be in a blue mood come November.

Beating the Full-Court Press

In the heady days of late 2023, as four state and federal courts filed 91 charges against Trump, the wishful thinkers were certain that the umpires of the legal world would soon eject Trump from the game.

Courts in Florida and Georgia dashed the bulk of those hopes just last week when they issued rulings delaying two of Trump’s criminal trials.

United States District Court Judge Aileen Cannon postponed Trump’s trial for allegedly mishandling classified documents, saying she needs more time to review pre-trial motions, including whether the witness list will be made public and how to protect national security when classified documents are introduced in court.

The Georgia Court of Appeals granted Trump’s legal team the opportunity to appeal a lower court decision that allowed Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis to continue prosecuting Trump on racketeering charges for allegedly attempting to overturn Biden’s slim 11,000-vote victory in Georgia. Trump’s attorneys contend that Willis engaged in personal misconduct that had a bearing on her decision to prosecute Trump.

Both decisions render it highly unlikely that either trial will begin before the November election.

Trump’s Washington trial, stemming from Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into the Capitol Hill riots (or insurrection, if you prefer) on January 6, 2021, has been on hold since February after the US Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments on whether Trump can use presidential immunity as a defense from prosecution.

The issue goes far beyond whatever Trump did or didn’t do.

Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog, who sat in on more than two and a half hours of oral argument, wrote that “some of the court’s conservative justices expressed concern about the prospect that, if former presidents do not have immunity, federal criminal laws could be used to target political opponents.”

Howe expects the Supreme Court to issue its ruling toward the end of its current session in late June or early July, with the justices likely to define boundaries of when immunity applies and doesn’t apply before returning the case to a lower court to review which charges against Trump stand up to that scrutiny. There is little chance of this case going to trial before November.

Trump’s hush money trial in New York is well underway and will peak this week when Michael Cohen, his former attorney and now the chief prosecution witness, testifies. So far, the case has proven more embarrassing for the former president than disqualifying, as we haven’t learned much more about Trump than we already knew when he ran for re-election in 2020.

Wishing Trump away has fast become a losing battle. Trump has proven himself to be a tough out, like the baseball batter who fouls off an endless number of pitches on a 3-2 count, hoping to work out a walk as the pitcher tires.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1011)

Oops! We could not locate your form.