Daria Novak described herself as a strong Donald Trump supporter in 2016, so much so that as the Republican nominee for Connecticut’s 2nd Congressional District that year, she put Trump’s name above her own on campaign signs.
While she admires the accomplishments of Trump’s four years in office, she’s uncertain about another four years.
“In recent months, conservatives are split approaching the presidential election,” Novak said. “It’s not about a single man but it’s about a movement. The conservative movement is bigger than one individual.”
Trump is the only declared 2024 presidential candidate, seeking a non-consecutive second term in office. That’s a stark contrast to 2015 when Trump waited for a large field of declared Republican candidates before entering the 2016 sweepstakes.
What’s not different is that, like in 2015 and 2016, Trump has made some missteps since announcing his candidacy last November that might be politically fatal to other politicians. Despite that, he cruised to the nomination and won a shocking general election victory. The question is, “Will he have the capacity to do so again in 2024?”
Novak is not certain Trump will have the same level of Republican support for his third presidential run. “There were great results from the Trump presidency, but there were also negatives to his presidency,” she said. “Some are tired of Trump’s high level of tension.”
Bruce Breton, the co-chairman of Trump’s campaigns in New Hampshire, doesn’t see waning support for the 45th president. “Trump will be the top vote-getter and prevail in the primaries if he doesn’t clear the Republican field first,” Breton predicted.
Just as Trump defied naysayers in 2016, Breton said he would win another general election. “Under the Trump administration, we had low inflation, low gas prices, 401(k)s were up, and people were prosperous,” Breton said. “People will remember the policies and procedures of the Trump administration and that will impact both the primary polls and the national election.”
A recent Morning Consult poll has both good and bad news for the Trump campaign. The good news is Trump’s margin among potential primary voters, 48 percent to 31 percent, over his closest competitor, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. The bad news is Trump is below 50 percent as a former president and two-time nominee for his party, even before the campaigning begins.
Meanwhile, since declaring his candidacy, Trump has given his critics fodder.
In November, entertainer Kanye West came to dinner at Mar-a-Lago and brought uninvited guests — provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and White nationalist Nick Fuentes. Trump, expecting West, was reportedly furious about the other two.
This is not likely to have any long-term consequences, Breton said. “Unfortunately, Trump doesn’t personally screen everyone that comes to Mar-a-Lago. I blame Kanye West for that.”
In December, Trump brought up the 2020 election and declared, “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.” Not a popular stance among pro-Constitution conservatives.
In a January social media post, Trump also launched a full-throated attack on pro-life voters, a key part of the Trump coalition in his 2016 victory. “It wasn’t my fault that the Republicans didn’t live up to expectations in the MidTerms,” Trump wrote. “It was the ‘abortion issue,’ poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on No Exceptions, even in the case of Rape, Incest, or Life of the Mother, that lost large numbers of Voters.”
Breton doesn’t anticipate Trump will lose the pro-life base after being the president most responsible for the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs decision. “That was just Trump being Trump,” Breton said.
Pro-life activists disagree. “Trump is way out of line here on life. He does not have a pulse on where his potential base is — as many believed he has in the past,” tweeted Lila Rose, leader of the pro-life group Live Action. “This kind of nonsense will be a losing political strategy for him.”
On another front, Trump endorsed House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy for speaker. Then after the third round of voting, Trump issued another endorsement for McCarthy, trying to convince Republicans to “TAKE THE VICTORY” in another social media post. Yet, the House still went through 14 rounds of voting before McCarthy was elected.
“We needed reforms that the Freedom Caucus pushed,” Novak said. “Whether this shows the level Trump has over Republicans is questionable.”
It’s worth remembering that since 2015, Trump’s critics have labeled every unconventional move by Trump as the end of his political career, Breton said. “That’s just his enemies talking. I don’t listen to pundits on TV. I talk to people on the streets. The majority of people I’ve talked to were happy in the Trump years. Trump was unconventional, but the American people prospered under his policies and procedures.”