Early data shows Mar-a-Lago’s search may have bolstered former President Trump’s strength in a possible 2024 GOP primary, even though his fight with the FBI could spell new legal peril.
Why is this important: An NBC News poll released Sunday shows Trump tightening his grip on Republicans. Several polls show him rising against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had risen in key states.
What we mean: Several GOP anti-Trump strategists say they fear the FBI search could put wind in Trump’s sails.
- A source close to Trump says the fundraising effect has been “huge”, re-engaging donors in the biggest way since he left office.
- To fuel the base, Trump’s fundraising text messages and emails accuse the FBI of “breaking into my house,” even though the agents had a search warrant.
What is happening: When Trump faded from the news cycle, Republicans were able to focus on criticism from the left — COVID regulations, educational practices, accusations of media bias.
- These played to DeSantis’ strengths and even allowed him to get Trump right on some issues.
- Since the search, Trump has again been the center of attention. He was once again able to align his own personal grievances with the Republican base – that a “deep state” bureaucracy is out to get him.
The plot: Many Republicans battling for the House and Senate in November are nervous about midterms becoming more Trump-focused, when they want the conversation to be all about inflation.
- Trump’s return to the center of the Republican Party’s conversation, they fear, means the party is looking back – a tough way to win an election.
Reality check: FBI property receipts indicate agents took away boxes of top secret documents and other classified documents. And the search warrant says he was being investigated for potential violations of the Espionage Act. Thus, Trump’s legal peril could render any political dividend useless.
By the numbers: Several new polls show a rally effect for Trump.
- A poll released last week by Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire once again shows Trump in a dominant position over DeSantis, 50%-29%. In June, a University of New Hampshire poll was the first in a wave of surveys to show DeSantis with momentum against Trump. DeSantis and Trump were statistically tied.
- Sunday’s NBC News poll asked GOP voters if they were more Trump or Republican supporters. Support for Trump has increased: 41% said they support Trump more than the party, up 7 points this summer. In May, 58% of Republicans said they identify more with the party, 34% with Trump.
The bottom line: These polls reflect the Republican mindset that “the more” they “hate him, the more I like him” — an effect that Trump recognizes and instinctively exploits.