GOP Emerges With the Edge in 2024, as Issues Trump Personality

It’s just one poll, conducted by SSRS Research for CNN, but it provides newsworthy evidence about where voters are on issues, and it isn’t glaringly inconsistent with other survey research.

So “which political party’s views are closer to” yours on each issue? Answer: mostly the Republican Party. On the economy (41 percent to 29 percent), immigration (40 percent to 30 percent), crime and policing (40 percent to 28 percent), government spending (35 percent to 26 percent) and parents’ rights (36 percent to 33 percent).

Admittedly, the Republicans’ margin is closer on America’s role in world affairs (35 percent to 32 percent) and freedom of speech (37 percent to 35 percent), and Democrats have the advantage on social and cultural issues (36 percent to 33 percent) and abortion (40 percent to 30 percent).

The overall picture, though, is fairly clear. Although respondents usually have more negative feelings about the Republican than the Democratic party, on this particular set of issues — not out of line with other polls on voter priorities — Republicans have a statistically significant advantage over Democrats on four issues and Democrats on only one.

That’s reasonably consistent with President Biden’s job approval, which is currently 44 percent and has been running at about that level, and occasionally well below, most of the time since the disorderly withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan in August 2021. Yet it’s at least somewhat dissonant with polls matching Mr. Biden against President Trump, in which the latter leads 44 percent to 42 percent — a statistical tie.

One illuminating thing about these numbers is that they show majorities of American voters rejecting both the 45th and 46th presidents, and are presumably in the market for a 47th. Even more revealing is that Republicans’ apparent advantage on salient issues has not produced an electorate determined to reject an 80-year-old Democratic incumbent.

That’s true even though Mr. Biden himself, after tacking left on virtually every issue during Ron Klain’s months as White House chief of staff, has now, during Jeff Zients’ weeks in that post, taken a couple of stands that suggest an awareness of vulnerability on some key issues.

Mr. Biden has announced changes in immigration policy apparently designed to prevent some illegal border crossers from applying for asylum status. One suspects that the administration welcomes the vocal opposition from the left, which may help Mr. Biden and other Democrats convince voters that he has abandoned what can plausibly be attacked as an open borders policy.

Despite cries of anguish from the defund-the-police left, Mr. Biden declined to veto Congress’ bipartisan decision to overturn the District of Columbia legislation reducing the penalties for violent crimes. 

This shows a lack of confidence in the liberal talking point that violent crime is less prevalent than it was 30 years ago and in the argument, advanced by the narrowly elected Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson, that high crime in black neighborhoods results from anger at low corporate tax rates.

Mr. Biden’s statement this week that he’s “planning” to run for reelection shows a certain nervousness about the possibility that he, like his immediate predecessor, may have difficulty winning re-nomination.

As the Washington Post’s Republican columnist Henry Olsen points out, a YouGov poll gives Mr. Biden 81 percent job approval among Democrats but reports that only 48 percent of them want him to run again.

That has prompted the Spectator’s conservative writer Ben Domenech to make the perhaps puckish suggestion that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez challenge the incumbent. Some 47 years younger than Mr. Biden, she will reach the constitutionally required age of 35 in October 2024.

Mr. Domenech compares an AOC candidacy to Pat Buchanan’s challenge of the first President George Bush in 1992 and suggests that just as Buchanan presaged Republicans’ post-Bush movement toward isolationism and protectionism, so Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s brand of what I call “barista socialism” represents a rising force among young Democratic voters strong enough to have provided the decisive votes earlier this month in the City of Big Shoulders.

As for the Republican nomination, Mr. Trump faces announced or possible opposition from serious figures in early-primary states — South Carolina’s former governor, Nikki Haley, and Senator Scott; New Hampshire’s governor, Chris Sununu — who could potentially be ticket-balancing VPs. 

The Manhattan district attorney’s flimsy indictment last week boosted Mr. Trump’s numbers, at least temporarily, but as I noted last week, primary preferences are usually readily changeable.

Patrick Ruffini of Echelon Insights, analyzing his firm’s polling, classifies 25 percent of Republican voters as Always Trump, 15 percent as Never Trump and 60 percent as up-for-grabs. 

That suggests there is plenty of room for Governor DeSantis, who has been competitive with Mr. Trump in two-candidate pairings, to overtake Mr. Trump if and when early-state candidates and Vice President Pence fall by the wayside.

Bottom line: Republicans have some advantage on issues, but there’s probably a bigger advantage for the party whose voters eschew residual loyalties and dump their overage and unpopular 2020 presidential nominees.

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