The entire media and pundit class, on both sides, told us again and again that Donald Trump’s indictment and arrest would cause his 2024 Republican primary numbers to skyrocket. Right leaning media celebrated this, left leaning media lamented over it, but they all stated that it would happen, as if it were an absolute given.
The funny thing is, that hasn’t happened – at all. Before anyone knew Trump was about to be indicted and arrested, he was at around 55% in the polling averages for the 2024 Republican primary race. Now that his indictment and arrest have played out, the latest polling shows Trump at around that same 55% number.
By now we all know what happens after the media and pundit class spends a long time hyping an obviously faulty prediction for ratings, and then that prediction doesn’t happen. It latches onto whatever one poll shows the kind of movement it predicted, and hypes it as if it were the only poll, while ignoring the fact that every other poll says it didn’t happen.
But Trump’s indictment and arrest have done so little to move the needle, the media and pundit class can’t even seem to find one where his Republican primary numbers have gone up. We know this because the media is now resorting to citing polls which still have him in the 55% range – proof that he went up zero points – and then just falsely categorizing this zero point move as if it were some huge spike. The media is counting on you having too short of a memory, or being too unwilling to go look up the numbers yourself, to realize that he’s always been at around this same 55% number.
The only “good” thing that has happened for Trump of late is that after Ron DeSantis attempted a national rollout and came across as a creepy weirdo with the personality of cardboard, his 2024 Republican primary poll numbers have cratered. His numbers are now barely half of what they were a month ago. But the kicker is that of all the support DeSantis has lost, precisely none of it has gone to Trump. Instead DeSantis’ support has trickled down to also-ran candidates and the “none of the above” category, which is where DeSantis was consolidating his support from to begin with.
It should be really scary for Trump that of all the people who have abandoned DeSantis over the past month, none of them have decided to fall in line behind Trump. Maybe they were never going to get behind Trump to begin with, or maybe Trump’s arrest scared them off. But either way, when your main opponent implodes and loses twenty points, and you gain zero of those points, you’re in some deep trouble. It means that whatever number you were at to begin with is likely your ceiling. You can’t go any higher. You can only try to avoid going lower. If Trump were at 80% or 90% in primary polling to begin with, he’d have a huge cushion to play with. But he’s only at 55%, meaning he’s highly vulnerable to having the nomination taken away from him long before he even gets to trial
Donald Trump and his political allies are now reduced to quoting new polls that show the same old mid-fifties number for Trump, and merely implying it’s higher than it used to be. Trump sycophant Marjorie Taylor Greene is now quoting a slew of new polls that have Trump at 56%, 51%, 52%, and 51% in the Republican primary race – and she’s trying to convince everyone that these numbers are some big spike for Trump. Over on his failed social network, Trump is hyping Greene’s post, as if this zero point “spike” is somehow proof that his indictment and arrest have helped him.
You’d expect Donald Trump and his allies to try to put this kind of positive spin on these numbers, because what else can they do? Trump’s indictment and arrest didn’t help Trump at all in the short term, like he was hoping it would, and now he’s stuck waiting to see how badly his worsening legal troubles will cause his numbers to go down in the longer term. Trump hoped there would at least be one silver lining in his arrest, and there isn’t, and all he can do is pretend there is.
But it’s nothing short of exasperating that after the entire media and pundit class (on both sides) insisted Trump’s Republican primary polling numbers would spike as a result of his indictment, and that didn’t happen at all, the media is trying to sell us on the fictional notion that Trump’s numbers have spiked instead of just acknowledging that their prediction was wrong.
Everyone in this industry is going to get some predictions wrong. No one is going to bat a thousand in the prediction game, no matter how knowledgeable or savvy they are. But when the media makes a wrong prediction that it should have known was very likely to be wrong, and then just pretends that it got it right, it proves that the media wasn’t even trying to get it right to begin with. It just wanted the ratings-friendly narrative that Trump’s arrest was making him more powerful than ever.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report