June 16, 2024

If Republicans step back and look beyond the legal and social-media spectacle of Donald J. Trump, they’ll see screaming political sirens everywhere they gaze.

Why it matters: The GOP’s political trouble has been unfolding slowly but unmistakably, starting even before Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in 2020.

  1. First, the 2018 House elections were a disaster for Republicans: Democrats had a net gain of 40 seats to take over the House — their largest gain since the post-Watergate election of 1974.
  2. Then Trump lost the presidency.
  3. Next, Republicans blew two runoff elections in Georgia and lost control of the U.S. Senate. The runoffs took place a day before Trump backers stormed the Capitol.
  4. Then, Republicans won the legal fight over abortion as Trump-appointed justices helped to ensure the reversal of Roe v. Wade. But the GOP lost a series of political battles over it afterward — a reflection of polls indicating that most Americans support abortion rights. GOP-led state legislatures have shown no signs of slowing their push to enact stricter abortion bans, suggesting continuing political backlash.
  5. Republicans put high-profile election deniers on the 2022 midterm ballot in key state and federal races — only to see several lose winnable elections.
  6. Republicans blew a chance to control the Senate by nominating too many hard-to-elect-in-a-swing-state Trump facsimiles. Their hopes of a big House majority were erased for the same reason, creating constant headaches for new Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
  7. Just this week, progressive Democrats triumphed in two of this year’s most consequential elections. Brandon Johnson, a teachers’ union organizer, was elected Chicago mayor. In swing state Wisconsin, Democrat-backed Janet Protasiewicz flipped the state Supreme Court to liberals in a landslide, after leaning into her support for abortion rights.
  8. Senate Republicans have been gifted a historically favorable 2024 map — but hard-right candidates who appeal to the GOP base again threaten to inject uncertainty into at least five winnable races.
  9. Trump is driving an agenda dominated by vengeance and victimhood, diverting Republicans from the inflation- and crime-centered messages that helped them in the midterms.

Reality check: Trump, if anything, is stronger and more likely to win the GOP nomination than he was after the November midterms.

  • Republicans in Congress have rallied to Trump’s defense since his indictment.

By the numbers: For all his growing popularity among Republicans, Trump remains wildly unpopular nationally.

  • Polls show Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who trails Trump by an average of 26 points among Republicans — would fare far better than Trump in a matchup against President Biden.
  • Biden’s approval rating has hovered around 42%, a dismal figure — but still better than Trump’s.

The bottom line: Put polls aside. How likely does it seem that Trump will do better with persuadable voters than his 2020 loss when you toss Jan. 6, a 34-count Manhattan indictment and possible federal indictments into the mix?