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Did Herschel Walker just end Trump’s presidential hopes?

Stumbling, mumbling, fumbling Herschel Walker finally flopped out of the Georgia Senate race. But while Walker can — and probably will — just exit politics and sink back into semi-obscurity, the man who dragged him into the race and imposed a demonstrably unqualified candidate on Georgia Republicans is now stuck dealing with the damage.

The Georgia Senate loss belongs to Donald Trump.

Trump plucked Walker out of nowhere and dropped him into the race. Even though Walker ran better than the late polling, he still lost. Worse, he was the only Republican to lose a statewide race in Georgia — from governor to labor commissioner.

Trump foundering

Since taking much of the heat for the poor GOP performance in the mid-terms, things have gone from bad to worse for Trump. At every turn he’s making the wrong moves, losing in court, losing at the ballot box and generally self-destructing.

Trump’s premature announcement for president was a dud. Both of his endorsed candidates in Alaska lost, returning to Washington a Democrat for the House and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who voted to convict Trump in the second impeachment.

Even worse, Trump’s meeting with the execrable Nick Fuentes and Ye — or Kanye West or whatever he’s calling himself these days — alienated large swaths of conservatives and even the key media outlet Breitbart.

Demanding to “terminate” provisions of the Constitution and peremptorily install him as president is just the icing on the crazy cake.

Still laboring under the delusion that Trump is a political genius and should never be counted out, many timid Republican officeholders are still hesitant to fully break with him — but it’s time for even the most pusillanimous Republican VIPs to head for the lifeboats and escape the Trump Titanic.

Not only is it clear that Trump is descending further into self-pity and rage, Republican voters continue to hemorrhage away from him at a steady pace.

Trump has been showing significant polling weakness over the past year — and that weakness is accelerating. According to the most recent YouGov benchmark, Trump’s ship keeps settling lower into the water.

The poll, taken before Trump’s latest musing on the Constitution, still has him at 79 percent favorable among Republicans, but that’s where the good news ends. The percentage of Republicans who want Trump to run again is down to 58 percent — his lowest yet. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) keeps narrowing the gap in a potential primary: Just 36 percent of Republicans select Trump as the “preferred” GOP nominee against 30 percent for DeSantis.

The larger electorate continues to dislike Trump intensely. Just 31 percent of the public wants Trump to run again, only 26 percent of independents. His favorability among independents is down to just 37 percent against 52 percent unfavorable.

GOP primary problems loom

What is truly problematic for Trump are the underlying Republican polling numbers. Not only is Trump’s standing eroding relative to DeSantis, but he is losing ground with conservative voters. Committed ideological voters are much more likely to vote in primaries than voters who simply identify with their party. And DeSantis is building an advantage with those committed voters.

While voters who identify as “Republican” prefer Trump to DeSantis 36 percent to 30 percent, that gap narrows to just 32 percent to 29 percent with those who identify as conservatives. In addition, Trump has lower favorable ratings among conservatives vs. Republicans, while DeSantis has higher approvals.

Worse still for Trump, DeSantis remains lesser known, leaving the Florida governor room to grow: 17 percent of Republicans and 15 percent of conservatives had no opinion of DeSantis, as opposed to merely 2 percent with respect to Trump.

Trump loyalists will continue — futilely — to point to Trump’s overall favorability with Republicans and his consistent lead over DeSantis in GOP primary ballot tests. But the fact is that any candidate who drops 43 points from a generic approval question to an actual ballot against a real human being, is a candidate in severe trouble.

End is in sight

Bottom line: It looks like it’s finally over for Trump.

My speculation in November that Trump might not be around for the primaries is now much closer to reality, I think. Even if Trump is not indicted by prosecutors at the Department of Justice or in Fulton County, Ga., he may well be facing a string of humiliating primary defeats.

DeSantis has all the momentum. Unless he commits a severe gaffe — or several — it’s hard to see how Trump holds him off. Throughout the past year, as Republican voters have become more familiar with DeSantis, he has attracted their support. And Trump appears to be running an experiment to see how many foolish moves he can make and still be the frontrunner.

Lazy pundit after lazy pundit has been saying that you just can’t count him out. Trump is still accorded some kind of mystical ability to cast a spell on Republican voters. But that simply is not the case — and has not been the case for over a year.

Trump is in a downward spiral, more than partly of his own making: He has shown himself to be not really very good at politics.

He’s a loser.

He knows how to bluster and bluff, and that’s about it.

The Trump tactic of viciously and jealously attacking any potential rival once served to leave a vacuum behind him in the Republican Party. But that’s over. Trump can no longer intimidate everyone out of the spotlight.

The lifeboats are lowering.

Now that Republican voters are starting to see alternatives, they are moving away.

Herschel Walker was the one who lost on the ballot, but it was Donald Trump whose political career went down in Georgia.

Keith Naughton, Ph.D., is co-founder of Silent Majority Strategies, a public and regulatory affairs consulting firm. Naughton is a former Pennsylvania political campaign consultant. Follow him on Twitter @KNaughton711.

Tags 2022 midterm elections 2022 midterms antisemitic Antisemitism DeSantis 2024 DeSantis v. Trump Donald Trump Donald Trump presidential campaign Georgia runoff election Georgia Senate runoff GOP primaries Herschel Walker Kanye West Lisa Murkowski Nick Fuentes opinion polling opinion polls Public opinion public opinion polling public opinion polls Republican Party Republican Party presidential primaries Ron DeSantis The Trump Organization Trump 2024 Trump approval rating Trump legal issues Trump v. DeSantis United States Constitution white nationalists white supremacist White supremacy

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