Scott Tibbs

Negating Trump's personal connection with his voters

By Scott Tibbs, August 2, 2023

Should Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis be the Republican nominee for President? At some point, some DeSantis supporters argue, Trump voters have to consider whether he is the best candidate to win in 2024, and whether Trump's legal troubles help or hurt him in a general election. Right?


They do not have to consider either, and they will not, because Trump connects with his voters on a personal level. This is what the opposition to Trump within the Republican Party has missed: The only way to shake Trump voters away from Trump is to weaken or sever that personal connection, or have DeSantis also establish a personal connection with enough Trump voters to push him into a plurality.

There is a reason that almost all of Trump's attacks on DeSantis are personal mockery or intentionally getting his name wrong like a pro wrestling heel would do. The policy attacks Trump has launched at DeSantis are largely from the Left - Trump has endorsed COVID-19 lockdowns, praised Andrew Cuomo, and attacked efforts to reform Social Security.

The DeSantis team wants Trump voters to see him as Trump plus competence, but that is not how they see him. Trump voters see DeSantis (or Rob DeSanctus) as Trump minus jokes and personality. You do not see memes of DeSantis riding a tank, holding an M-16 with an American flag waving in the background. You do see that with Trump. This is because these memes come from the heart, not the head. That is why policy arguments will not sway Trump voters. It has to be done on a personal level.

This is why Democrats are playing this brilliantly. They see Trump as more beatable than DeSantis, and they are trying to help Trump win the nomination. The way they do that is with all these indictments and legal cases to strengthen Trump voters' personal connection to him. The legal cases may not help Trump in the general election, but they do help in the primaries. Furthermore, no matter what you think of the legal merits of charging alternate electors in Michigan, that also reinforces the notion that Democrats are after "us" and they are after Trump because he is in the way. This increases the personal loyalty to Trump.

A recent poll nails Trump's advantage with Republican primary voters: They want a nominee who makes liberals angry and says Trump won in 2020. For the second item, no one will ever beat Trump in that category. No one can ever be more loyal to Trump than Trump. For the first item, Trump wins that too. The Left's hatred for Trump is visceral and personal, not based on policy. No one is better at making liberals angry than Trump.

I am not saying any of this is the right way to look at Trump vs. DeSantis. I am saying that is (unfortunately) the way Trump voters see it. We have to play on the field we have, not on the field we want.

The ultimate reality is this: Unless DeSantis can establish a personal connection or somehow weaken Trump voters' personal connection to Trump, then Trump is going to run away with the nomination. Casey DeSantis - an attractive young mom with more personality and political savvy than her husband - can help a great deal in this regard. Trump will not be able to stop himself from personally attacking her, and that may well weaken his personal appeal. As of right now, this nomination is Trump's to lose.

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