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45 on the Rise: What Is Causing the Trump Bump?

It’s not age, the economy, crime, or the border.

by | Dec 19, 2023 | Articles, Good Reads, Opinion, Politics

The stunning reversal of fortune in recent presidential polls, with Donald Trump rising from a small deficit to a decisive lead, has Washington all abuzz. Beltway pundits are openly alarmed that we could be facing 2016 all over again. And for good reason.

To quantify the remarkable Trump bump of recent weeks, the former president has won eight of the last ten polls by margins ranging from two to ten (!) points, holds an average lead of 3.5% in the RealClearPolitics average, and is effectively ahead in most every battleground state. To put this in perspective, Trump never had a lead in the polls like this before — or ever, for that matter. He trailed decisively against Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020 all the way to Election Day.

So, why the sudden surge by the 45th president and the seeming collapse of the 46th? Many will say it is rising prices and inflation, or millions of illegals flowing through an open border, or rampant crime hollowing out our once-great cities. Others will cite an international record centered on the disastrous surrender of Afghanistan, after which Biden’s public support turned upside down, never to recover. And most everyone will point to cognitive health and the a-word: age.

GettyImages-1841165823 Joe Biden

Joe Biden (Photo by Jacquelyn Martin – Pool/Getty Images)

But there is one problem with trying to attach Trump’s surge — or Biden’s collapse — to such factors. Those major issues have existed for almost the entirety of the Biden presidency. None of them — from inflation to crime to Biden’s age and condition — is new. But one thing is new, and the data show it to be the single catalytic event in Trump’s present rise: the Israel war.

Before Oct. 7, Biden had finished on top of Trump in seven of the last ten national surveys — after winning in nine of ten polls in August. He had a narrow but reasonably consistent lead. Then came the invasion of Israel, and suddenly the tide turned. Trump has since finished ahead in 28 separate surveys, four times as many as Biden’s seven, with six resulting in a tie. Trump’s lead expands to six points — outside the margin of error — in a five-way race including independent/third-party candidates Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Jill Stein, and Cornel West — with comfortable margins atop all eight five-way polls conducted to date. None of the many significant events since the start of the presidential campaign months ago has had such a profound effect on public opinion.

Of course, the next question is whether this Trump bump is transient, sure to be washed away once his trials start dominating the news in the spring, or if this is a pivotal event in the decline and fall of Joe Biden from which he will be unable to recover.

Biden Wars vs Trump Peace

All this does not mean the voters necessarily and suddenly prefer Trump’s specific policies and record on Israel, though he is arguably the most pro-Israel president of our times. Nor does it mean that most Americans don’t support the Jewish state, or that Biden’s support of Israel and condemnation of Hamas are somehow wrong. What it does mean is that, with a ground war in the Middle East on top of the one grinding on in Ukraine, Biden is now clearly viewed as a wartime president — distinct from the Trump years, when no new foreign wars broke out. Biden’s response to repeated attacks on American bases by Iran and its proxies has been considered meek according to many, measured to most Democrats. But then there is the thorniest of Biden partisans: the hard left, which threatens to topple the Biden presidency with internal dissent over the simplest of propositions, whether to condemn the inhuman savagery of Hamas and commit to the continued existence of Israel.

Suddenly, the deep divisions among leftists, long subsumed by a common hatred of Trump, shot to the surface in a torrent of widely reviled protests calling for Israel to be wiped off the map. This has evidently been attached by the voters to Biden, and his inability to control the worst instincts of the most extreme members of his party.

Biden’s Abortion Antidote

While Biden could well be brought low by any number of factors, including the a-word age, he will undoubtedly benefit from another a-word: abortion. The Dobbs decision by the Supreme Court has resulted in Democrats overperforming in the 2022 and 2023 elections. And even though presidential races generally pivot on issues of peace and prosperity, Democratic strategists are intent on placing abortion referenda on the ballot across the nation to generate high turnout. In the battle of a-word assets, will the Biden abortion bump cancel out the Trump age bump? If so, the Israel war, and the broader theme sure to be pressed by Trump that his successor is so weak as to invite the hostilities and foreign adventurism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Muslim radicals, might push Trump over the finish line.

Together with Democrats continuing their eight-year-long proclamation that Trump is a deranged authoritarian, “Democracy and Dobbs” is the formula reportedly recommended by Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, husband of Kamala Harris, for maintaining control of the White House. That rallying cry will likely be embraced by a party largely embarrassed by its own nominee but prepared to do whatever it takes to make dead certain Trump never again sets foot in the Oval Office. However, the Israel war, like Afghanistan, is clearly threatening to be a turn of events from which Biden cannot recover.

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