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Polls predict a tie between Trump and Biden in 2024

The legal expenses of the former president, who was consolidating his lead among the Republican primary electorate, have led his campaign to near bankruptcy

Donald Trump
Donald Trump this past Saturday at a rally in Erie (Pennsylvania).LINDSAY DEDARIO (REUTERS)

Day after day, Donald Trump confirms his unbeatable leadership in the Republican primaries despite having been indicted three times now — and there could be a fourth indictment in the coming weeks — with a 37-point lead over his most direct rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has recovered a little muscle in the voting intention polls, although he still does not fully convince his party’s traditional voting base. If they faced each other today, the candidates for re-election in November 2024 would be tied with 43% support each from registered voters, according to the latest poll by Siena College for The New York Times, published on Tuesday before the third indictment had been made public. The polarization of U.S. society is confirmed in a single statistic.

The poll showed that 14% of registered voters do not support either of the candidates, and are more likely to abstain or vote for a third candidate. This group of undecided, generally moderate voters (49% of the total), may be the key to solving the question of who will occupy the White House from 2025. Slightly more favorable to Biden, the undecided are especially critical of Trump, whom they accuse of “committing serious federal crimes” (63% of this group) and of “threatening American democracy” (59%).

Although Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections, something that no party had achieved since the creation of the modern party system in 1828, doubts about Biden’s age (80) and about his real support outside the big metropolitan areas, which tend to be Democratic strongholds, could tip the scales to the Republican side. The latest Gallup poll points to this possibility: 45% of Americans say they are Republican or lean towards that party, while 42% are Democrats or prefer this option.

Meanwhile, polls show a majority support for Trump among Republicans. In a poll published on Monday, he achieved 54% of voting intention among the likely Republican primary electorate, compared to 17% for DeSantis. Trump’s success comes in large part from supporters of his MAGA (Make America Great Again) movement, which emerged when he launched his first run for the White House in 2016. MAGA voters make up 37% of the Republican electoral base, and abstention is rare. They are strongly mobilized and react en masse to every harangue by their leader — or every message “screamed” in capital letters on his Truth Social app.

Bankruptcy

Immersed in a legal battle without precedent in the history of the United States — he is the first former president to be indicted — Trump cherishes the dream of re-election, if only because each legal setback infuses strength, in addition to donations, to his campaign. But his expenditure on legal defense is becoming a serious problem as his political action committee (PAC, the engine behind a campaign) approaches bankruptcy after paying millions in Trump’s legal fees, as well as those of associates such as his assistant Walt Nauta and his employee Carlos de Oliveira, also indicted in the case of the Mar-a-Lago papers. So far this year, Trump has allocated more than $40 million dollars to legal expenses, and around $56 million since last year.

Trump’s PAC, Save America, has only $4 million left, according to The New York Times, out of the $105 million it had at the beginning of 2022. The attorneys’ fees and court fees derived from the numerous investigations have increased exponentially since January — since April, Trump has been indicted three times, the most recent one on Tuesday, and he has lost a trial in New York. Trump is paying these fees in part through the PAC.

So tight are the group’s finances that it has requested a highly unusual $60 million refund of a donation it made to a Trump Super PAC. Super PACs are, according to the Federal Election Commission, “political committees that make only independent expenditures that may solicit and accept unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, labor organizations and other political committees.”

Donors might start to consider, with more than a year to go until the election, whether they are willing to pay not only for Trump’s campaign, but also for his legal expenses. The majority of Republican voters do not mind continuing to contribute: many plan to continue supporting Trump in 2024, despite the fact that slightly more (17% of those who plan to vote for him) believe that he has committed “serious federal crimes,” according to the Siena/New York Times poll. But his campaign’s financial vulnerability is being taken advantage of by his rival in the Republican primaries, Ron DeSantis. Sources from the DeSantis campaign have spread the complaint that to pay “the legal bills of a billionaire,” many retired folks are making a dent in their own Social Security checks.

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