*Editor’s Note: On March 4, Russia enacted a law that criminalizes public opposition to, or independent news reporting about, the war in Ukraine. The law makes it a crime to call the war a “war” rather than a “special military operation” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. The law is understood to penalize any language that “discredits” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calls for sanctions or protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It punishes anyone found to spread “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison.
The former leader of the White House is losing support even among Republicans.
Former President Donald Trump’s scandal spree has seriously hurt his image. In particular, he’s not earning any points by meeting public opinion leaders who have controversial reputations and by remaining the subject of continuing Justice Department investigations. Against that background, the voices of Trump’s potential rivals are growing louder. These might include former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former National Security Advisor John Bolton. Meanwhile, the popularity of Trump’s main challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, continues to skyrocket.
Trump’s campaign to return to the White House in 2024 failed from the start. The majority of American analysts and media think so, and The Hill in particular notes that since Trump launched his reelection campaign on Nov. 15, nothing has been working for the former president.
Trump spent all last week defending himself against media attacks following his dinner with rapper Kanye West (accused of antisemitism for his scandalous statements on Twitter) and Nick Fuentes, a white nationalist and Holocaust denier. Even Trump’s supporters were confused about his choice of company. The matter got attention outside the U.S. as well. Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — also the winner of the recent parliamentary election — called Trump’s behavior unacceptable and said Trump had made a mistake.
One of Trump’s 2020 campaign advisers anonymously told The Hill that it was a catastrophic dinner. Apart from that, he said the new campaign could best be described as “laziness”; the former president has not held a single rally in more than half a month.
Trump has a lot of problems at the moment. The U.S. House Committee on the Budget gained access to his tax returns from 2015 to 2020 following a long legal battle that dragged on for years until it was resolved the Supreme Court. And, although members of Congress have little time to study all these documents (it’s unlikely that under the control of the Republicans, the U.S. House of Representatives will continue its investigation), it is likely that information from these documents will leak to the media. At that point, the Justice Department will be free to use this information, if there are any violations, as the basis of additional investigation into the former president if the information shows evidence of illegal activity.
The FBI raid on Trump’s Florida residence has raised additional problems. On the one hand, on Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a previous lower court decision appointing a special master to review the agency’s actions during the seizure of documents. On the other hand, last month, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith who previously served in the International Criminal Court in The Hague as special counsel in charge of investigations involving the former president. As Politico noted, Smith will oversee the ongoing investigation of Trump’s alleged retention of highly sensitive national security documents as well as actions in Jan. 2021, when the Republican president refused to concede defeat and his supporters attempted to disrupt the transfer of power to Joe Biden.
A new scandal regarding Trump’s statements about the need to investigate Hunter Biden, son of the current president, only added fuel to the fire. On Saturday, Trump wrote on his social media network Truth Social that investigating “a Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude” — Biden Jr. is suspected of violations regarding his commercial activities in Ukraine and China — would permit “the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”
“Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!” Trump added, referring to Biden.
Because Trump encroached on what is sacred – the U.S. Constitution – both Democrats and Republicans heaped criticism on him. A potential Republican candidate for president, Pence spoke directly to his former commander in chief saying, “We will support and defend the Constitution of the United States” in an interview with WVOC. A majority of Republican senators expressed the same opinion, according to The Hill. Sen. John Thune, a leader in the Senate minority, said the former president’s remarks presented a “great opportunity” for his challengers in 2024.
Trump’s blunders and the “red wave” that failed to sweep both houses of Congress have inspired those who reject Trump.
Those who previously supported him but who have changed their minds insist he is “an electoral burden on the ballot.”
According to The Hill, Trump is losing the ability to intimidate prospective political rivals. And any hope that his claim to the presidency will deter other candidates from running is misplaced, The Hill wrote. Given that, Pence, along with former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Pompeo made it clear they are considering a run for president. Monday, Bolton also claimed that he’s also ready to declare his candidacy.
And Ron DeSantis is still the biggest threat to Trump, having generated a true Republican tsunami during the November midterm elections, beating his opponent by 20% of the vote.
Just a few months ago, Trump’s critics agreed that the former president was favored to win the Republican Party nomination and that it would be impossible to buck this trend, But now, they are optimistic. The last poll, conducted by YouGov, shows that DeSantis trails Trump in popularity by just six points. Thirty percent of respondents said they would vote for the Florida governor. Speaking about Trump’s slide in popularity, Republican strategist Rick Tyler told The Hill “there is a reason that a circus moves from town to town. It’s because after a while everybody has seen the acts.”
Still, Trump doesn’t seem to be doing any worse than the others. According to another Economist / YouGov poll, 56% of Americans don’t want to see Joe Biden as their future president. This number is a bit better for Trump at 54%.
A recent Marquette Law School survey shows that in a 2024 DeSantis-Biden race, each candidate would get the same 42% support from registered voters. DeSantis scored eight points more compared to the results of the same survey a month ago, while the current president lost a point. If Biden were running against Trump at that point, he would beat the former president by 10% of the vote.
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