Trump's General Election Weakness Exposed In Iowa Caucus Results
About one-third of Republican caucus voters believe Trump would be unfit for office if he's convicted and believe Biden won 2020 legitimately. This indicates massive general election vulnerabilities.
Thank you for reading! If you like my work and want to support it, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber to get my articles in your inbox. My content isn’t paywalled, but paid subscribers get exclusive community features. This newsletter is entirely reader-funded, so paid subscribers make this work possible.
On Monday night, to no one’s surprise, Donald Trump won the Republican Iowa Caucuses. Trump won with 51% of the vote, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis secured second place with 21.2%, former UN Ambassador and SC Governor Nikki Haley fell in third place with 19.1%, and Vivek Ramaswamy got 7.7% of the vote before dropping out of the race.
This is being framed in most press coverage as a huge victory for Trump. But upon closer examination, the results and entrance polls actually expose major electoral weaknesses.
First off, if former President Donald Trump is essentially running as an incumbent with such strong support within his party, why is he securing only 51% of the vote in one of the most conservative and evangelical electorates in the country? Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker (D) pointed this out in an interview with MSNBC, asserting that Trump’s performance actually showcases his “weakness.”
Elections are won on the margins, and the less of a grip Trump has on his party, the more likely he is to lose in the general election.
The main weakness highlighted by the Iowa Caucuses came from entrance polls, which found that around one-third of Republican Iowa Caucus voters say Trump isn’t fit to be president if he’s convicted of a crime.
After these numbers circulated on Monday night, a lot of media focus was on the two-thirds of Republican caucus voters who would still back Trump if he’s convicted. Yes, that’s an incredibly concerning number, underscoring the radicalization of the GOP base. But for me, it’s the one-third number that is more remarkable.
The fact that one-third of Republican Iowa Caucus voters find Trump unfit to be president if he’s convicted suggests that, at the very least, a notable percentage of GOP voters believe Trump’s indictments aren’t hoaxes and they would take a criminal conviction seriously. Even if that number isn’t accurate and is closer to 15% or even 10%, that reveals more significant concerns within the Republican Party about Trump’s potential criminality than is reflected in current mainstream analysis.
Trump's road to the 2024 election is paved with trials. He’s facing 91 criminal charges across four indictments, two of which are federal. Not to mention the second E. Jean Carroll civil defamation trial, which started this week.
If Trump’s immunity claim is resolved on a speedy basis, and Special Counsel Jack Smith’s 2020 election subversion trial moves forward in the spring as scheduled, a conviction might come before the Republican National Convention in July. A conviction in that trial could potentially change the game in the general election.
“This means of people turning out to caucus in Iowa, a third of them think that if Donald Trump is convicted, he is not fit to be president. In this incredibly conservative electorate, where Trump is going to run away with the Iowa Caucuses by a mile and then some, still a third of that electorate says if he’s convicted… no. They’re gonna nominate him nationwide? When even a third of Iowa caucusgoers say no he can’t be president if he’s convicted? I'm sorry, but he's going to be convicted.”
Another entrance poll adds a new dimension, finding that about one-third (29%) of Republican caucus voters said they believe Biden won the election legitimately. While concerning that two-thirds are election deniers, the fact that one-third believe Biden won legitimately could indicate Trump’s election lies are falling flat among a sizable percentage of Republicans.
Analyzed together, these two entrance polls paint a potentially revelatory picture. The fact that about one-third of Iowa Republican caucus voters believe Trump is unfit for office if convicted and believe Biden won legitimately indicates that the 2020 election subversion trial, in particular, could deeply damage Donald Trump’s general election chances.
Even without a conviction, the facts being highlighted over months of that trial could erode Trump’s support, in the same way the January 6 hearings impacted public opinion on Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Losing just a small percentage of Republicans over the course of this trial would be enough to swing the election.
If you like my journalism, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Concern about Trump’s criminality is also captured by multiple national polls.
This vulnerability was revealed in the controversial November New York Times/Siena College poll that found Trump leading Biden in five battleground states. The cross-tabs show if Trump were to be convicted and sentenced, Biden would take the lead in all six battleground states and, in some cases, win by double digits. I analyzed the poll in The Independent at the time and highlighted this point:
On the flip side of his polling lead, there’s also a little-discussed cross-tab within the NYT/Siena poll that shows Trump’s legal troubles could prove to be his downfall.
When asked if Donald Trump is convicted and sentenced in one of his criminal trials, an average of 6% of registered voters across those same six battleground states said they would switch their vote over to Biden, with 4% opting for another candidate and 4% choosing to sit out the election. This would put Biden in a large lead in all six battleground states, handing him the 2024 election.
“Three-quarters of Americans see wrongdoing on Trump's part: 49% believe he has done something illegal, and 26% believe he has done something unethical but not illegal.”
The key to winning elections in our polarized electorate is to hold your coalition together and turn out your base. Elections are won on the margins in battleground states. If Donald Trump sheds a meaningful percentage of his voters in these states as he did in 2020, and President Biden holds his coalition together, that’s the ballgame.
As I’ve written in my 2024 election analysis article, the convergence of Biden's achievements, inflation easing, the surging economy, declining crime, and recent Democratic election overperformance puts Democrats in a much stronger 2024 position than most polls indicate.
We’ll see how Trump’s criminal trials play out. But looking at these Iowa numbers and the likelihood of a Trump conviction in at least one of his four criminal cases, it’s possible that Trump’s Iowa Caucus victory could be the precursor to a general election shellacking.