TonErri Burl was an early member of Women for Trump. As chairperson of her local Republican branch in northern Wisconsin, she twice campaigned vigorously for him in key swing states. When Trump left office, Burr called him the greatest president since Ronald Reagan. Maybe better.
But now Burl has had enough.
She was unnerved by the prospect of Trump announcing a second run for president — as he was expected to do in Florida on Tuesday night. Burl predicted “there’s going to be a lot of blood on the floor” in the race for the Republican nomination against right-wing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who would lose the 2024 election if the former U.S. president was the candidate.
“I’ll support whoever the Republicans choose to run in 2024. It’s a given. But I hope they get through the primary, and I hope it’s not Trump. He has too much luggage right now. We need fresh blood, Because obviously, he can’t do business now without doing something that makes people angry. His behavior hasn’t changed,” she said.
Substitute teacher Burr is not alone.
Republicans failed to deliver the “red wave” they had to promise in the midterm elections, a major blow to Trump’s claim to be the voice of his party’s voters, not least because his primary candidate lost. But the grassroots support that has allowed him to cling to Republicans for years and hold back a hostile leadership has been weakening for months.
Republican county chairmen and activists say the former president’s approval ratings are under pressure as he continues to push election conspiracy theories, investigations into his corporate and political practices and his attacks on his most threatening challenger, DeSantis. dropped. On top of that, there are growing concerns that Trump is now more divisive than he was two years ago, when he lost the popular vote to Joe Biden by more than 7 million votes and thus could not be elected.
But local Republican leaders also said Trump has retained a large and loyal following in the party who will fight to the end and still decide the primary.
In rural Iowa, Neil Schafer, chairman of the Howard County Republican Party, said he would prefer to see DeSantis become his party’s nominee within two years, but members of his branch are divided.
“Trump has a lot of baggage, honestly, of his own making. If he accepts the loss gracefully, keeps his mouth shut, and doesn’t push these conspiracy theories further, he could be president again, with Biden as interim president, “He says.
“The people who followed the Trump bandwagon, there were a lot of independents, a lot of first-time voters, a lot of ordinary people. They did ignore some issues. A lot of the people I’ve talked to since Voters who voted Republican, it will be difficult to be as enthusiastic as Trump this time, because he did not exit gracefully. From November 2020 to January 6th, he lost a lot of political capital needlessly. It’s all self-inflicted of.”
Schaeffer said he has confidence in the electoral system, which Biden legitimately won.
Like Burl, Shaffer would like to see other candidates challenge Trump for the Republican nomination.
“Honestly, I’m a big fan of Governor DeSantis, and have been in the months since the last campaign. Fresh faces. Same agenda as Trump, without all the baggage,” he said. Say.
But Schaeffer doubts Trump can be defeated.
“If Trump ran, I’m 99% sure he’d get the nomination. I know how the caucuses and primaries work. You don’t have to have that many people show up, and he has a very loyal and dedicated following,” Shaffer said .
Burl is less certain Trump will win the primary, but she predicts a close fight could further damage the Republican Party.
“If those two were left, going back and forth, I think it would be brutal. There would be a lot of blood on the floor,” she said.
A YouGov poll conducted days after the midterm elections showed DeSantis leading Trump by 7 percentage points among Republican primary voters, including independents. That’s a change from the month before the election, when Trump held a 10-point advantage. Among “strong Republicans,” however, Trump still holds a narrow lead.
Burl manages a private Facebook group, “American Patriots.” She polled its members and found Trump with a slight edge. On other social media forums, some of his supporters described him as a “proven fighter” able to connect with the public in a way no other politician could. Others said it was time to “dump Trump”.
“I love what DJT has done for America. But…can he still get elected?” asked one of his supporters.
After he backed weak candidates in the midterms, others questioned his judgment simply because they were loyal to his claim that the last presidential election was stolen.
Trump’s taunting of his Florida opponent, Ron Ron, as “unruly” just days before the midterm elections was the final straw for some. He then warned DeSantis not to run for president on Fox News, saying “he could get hurt pretty badly” and threatening that “it wouldn’t be very flattering to tell you about him.”
“I think he’s going to make mistakes. I don’t think the base is going to like it. I don’t think it’s good for the party,” Trump said.
Burr said she was “shocked” by the former president’s attacks on DeSantis.
“Trump started abusing him, which really threw me off. Then he said that if DeSantis tried to run against him, he would bring up some dirty words about DeSantis. That’s not the way things are done,” she said. Say.
Burr said some Republicans are concerned that while they see Trump as his own man, DeSantis is a versatile politician whose decisions are calculated based on what he thinks is good for voters .
“Some people say they don’t trust DeSantis because they think he’s going to enter the establishment. I’m not an establishment. I don’t like establishment candidates. I like people like Trump,” she said.
“But even though some people may see DeSantis as the establishment right now, I think he’s coming out as a Republican in his own right and really doesn’t want to play around with all the establishment Republicans and do what they say do it.”
Schaffer worries that if Trump loses the race, he will do damage to the Republican Party and its presidential candidates.
“How does Trump campaign without tarnishing other candidates?” he said.
If Trump is the nominee? Schaeffer said he would still run for the former president, but dismissed the prospect.
“If Trump gets the nomination, it’s going to be a lot harder for him this time than in 2020. We’re going to have to work really hard, harder than we did in 2016 or two years. [ago]” He says.