Is America turning its back on Trump?

After Mike Pence commented that Trump was "wrong" to suggest he could overturn the election - we discuss whether the US is falling out of love with its former present.

John Heycock
23rd February 2022
Donald Trump and Mike Pence. Image credits: Wikimedia Commons.
It has now been over a year since the Trump administration handed over the keys to the White House to its new Democratic incumbent Joe Biden. This came after one of the most brutal election cycles in American electoral history. With tensions running high between supporters of the two major parties, a record number of Americans turned out at the ballot box to give their say over which of the drastically different visions of America they wanted their country to embark on.

Victory went to Biden, and the efforts of Trump's team turned towards overturning the result. With all methods failing, Trump's last ditch effort was to persuade his Vice President, Mike Pence, to overturn the result of the election when the electoral college met on January 6th 2021. With many including Pence himself stating the role was largely ceremonial, Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol building before Biden's victory was confirmed.

Now, over a year later, Pence has come out with his strongest rebuke yet of Trump's tactics - stating his former boss was "wrong" to insist he could overturn the election result. Pence continued by saying "frankly, there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American President”. This latest intervention shows tensions between the former Vice-President and his boss have certainly not subsided.

Pence's decision to strongly rebuke the former President could be Pence assuming a future Trump-Pence electoral ticket is out of the question and as a result voicing his true feelings on Trump. Alternatively, Pence may be laying the groundwork for his own Presidential bid, knowing he is now unlikely to be popular with the most ardent Trump supporters, and therefore needs to forge his own voter base.

Perhaps, however, there is something larger at play here: a potential shift in America's opinions about Trump.

Before the pandemic struck, Trump seemed to be cruising towards a second term. Pandemic mismanagement seemed to sour his relationship with a large proportion of voters, encouraging many to actively vote against him at the polls. The now-former President's tactics to overturn election results and refusal to concede likely alienated even more voters, with many believing he was now a spent political force.

Latest polls would back up this idea, indicating a net unfavorability rating for Trump by an average margin of around 10 percentage points (41% favourable to 55% unfavourable according to fivethirtyeight's poll tracker on the 8th of February 2022). This isn't just a one-off either: these polling numbers have been fairly consistent since April 2021.

Pence has come out with his strongest rebuke yet of Trump's tactics - stating his former boss was "wrong" to insist he could overturn the election result

The picture isn't just looking bleak for the former President on a national level - within his own party, there are signs that some voters are shifting their loyalties. An NBC news poll in at the start of this year showed 56% of Republicans show more support for the party than Trump, with 36% showing more support for Trump than the party as a whole. This is a near exact reversal on the result at the end of October 2020, just before the presidential election.

Interestingly, of the Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted to impeach Trump, all seven are out-raising their primary opponents according to analysis by the New York Times of candidates’ reports to the Federal Election Commission. This is showing that loyalty to Trump is not proving to be a big factor in the party, and the strength of these candidates' fundraising efforts could even be argued to suggest that there is a large segment of Republican voters who want a break from Trump and are willing to actively pursue a non-Trump direction for the party.

But none of this means Trump is going anywhere soon - and with a 25 point lead over fellow right-winger Ron DeSantis in the polls, Trump may well still have the political strength to comfortably take the Republican nomination and run again for the Presidency. Knowing another loss could be damaging both financially and personally, whether he does may well come down to the political weather at the time.

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