Trump isn't Going Anywhere in 2024

Donald Trump’s popularity was bound to take a hit eventually. Even after his second impeachment trial ended with the Senate acquitting Trump yet again, the stink is on him. 57 Senators voted to convict Trump of inciting the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, which dovetails with the more than half of Americans who supported impeachment in the first place. Trump’s approval rating sunk to 34 percent before he left office, the lowest during his presidential term. To any casual observer, his 2024 chances might be completely shot.

Apparently Republicans think differently. A new POLITICO poll finds that Donald Trump is leading the way-too-early 2024 GOP presidential field, and it’s not close.

Virtually everyone besides Trump is polling in the single digits, including “reasonable” Republican hopefuls like former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Apparently trying to fill the Trump void with some semblance of moderateness isn’t cutting it among the Republican base—at least not yet. The only one above ten percent is Trump’s former VP Mike Pence, who probably isn’t going to run anyway after the whole almost-getting-killed-by-rabid-Trump-supporters fiasco.

The fact is Trump is still a major political force in the Republican Party and will be for a while. His approval rating among Republican respondents was 81 percent, maintaining a steady increase since he left office on Jan. 20. It’s a surprise the number wasn’t higher. Republican senators have done all his dirty work over the past several weeks, downplaying the riot and rationalizing or apologizing for Trump’s behavior—let them tell it and you’ll find out Trump was actually the victim on Jan. 6. Immediately after the trial ended, Trump thanked GOP senators in a written statement, repeating that his political movement has “only just begun.”

Indeed Trump might be right. There have been efforts in statehouses across the country to censure Republicans who have spoken out against or voted to convict Trump, including Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine. That’s not something that happens on behalf of a political movement or figure that’s fading away—it’s a message that Trump still runs the GOP in absentia. Sen. Lindsay Graham revealed that after the impeachment trial he told Trump the importance of keeping the “MAGA movement” alive. Graham might be a gutless hack but he’s no dummy—there is no MAGA, no political momentum, no juice among Republican voters without Trump. That might change over time, but for now Graham and the GOP are hitched for the long haul.