OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
A seasoned Republican strategist said this week that it appears as though former President Donald Trump has fully embraced his 2024 frontrunner status and is campaigning like he’s already become the GOP nominee.
“Trump’s comments about the 2024 presidential race, his abortion stance, and his ever-increasing poll numbers during two campaign stops in Iowa this week may indicate that post-Labor Day, Trump is gearing his campaign toward a general election that is focused on defeating President Joe Biden next year as opposed to relitigating the 2020 election or directly engaging his GOP competitors,” The Washington Examiner reported on Friday.
Trump has consistently encouraged his supporters at “Caucus Commitment” events to mobilize voters for the crucial January 15 Iowa caucuses. This is part of his strategic plan to extensively campaign in Iowa, which includes scheduling five additional campaign events in the state over the next six weeks.
Furthermore, he reaffirmed his previous stance that six-week abortion bans implemented by Republicans, including his primary rival Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL), were a “terrible thing,” claiming that such stances will cost Republicans next year.
During a campaign event in Dubuque, Iowa, on Wednesday, he cautioned that abortion restrictions that do not account for extenuating circumstances like rape, incest, or the health of the mother could potentially have negative consequences for the GOP in upcoming elections, the Examiner noted.
“Without the exceptions, it is very difficult to win elections. We would probably lose the majorities in 2024 without the exceptions, and perhaps the presidency itself,” Trump said.
His focus on establishing a strong presence in the first-in-the-nation caucuses, coupled with his unwavering stance against external pressures advocating for a federal abortion ban, both indicate that Trump is transitioning beyond the GOP primary race. It suggests he’s now focused on winning over centrist and independent voters who hold the key to deciding the election, the Examiner added.
“He’s definitely in general election mode. He’s skipping debates. He’s barely talking about his opponents. He’s clearly focused on Joe Biden and the November 2024 election,” national Republican strategist Brian Seitchik told the outlet.
The Examiner noted further:
The former president’s campaign pointed to Trump’s large lead in national and state polls as part of his dedication to winning the race. The campaign is also bringing on Alex Meyer, a former member of the Republican National Committee’s political data team, as a senior adviser focusing on Iowa and Missouri.
A RealClearPolitics national poll average shows Trump leading DeSantis 58.8% to 12.5%, a more than 46 percentage point advantage. Other polls reflect Trump’s domination of the GOP field. A new CNN-University of New Hampshire poll showed Trump receiving 39% support among Republican voters while DeSantis garnered 10%, a 13-point drop since the poll was conducted in July.
“Polling shows President Trump leading by nearly 40 points, but as he always tells us, put the pedal to the metal,” a Trump spokesperson told the outlet. “We don’t play prevent defense, and his aggressive upcoming schedule reflects President Trump’s continued commitment to earning support in Iowa one voter at a time.”
Jeffrey Lazarus, a political scientist at Georgia State University, believes the primary race is essentially over already, barring any unforeseen issues.
“I might be calling this prematurely, but I don’t see how anybody in the Republican field beats Trump,” he told the Examiner.
“If you’re a strategic Republican politician, the only reason you take a hard-line stance on abortion is to win a primary election because that stance doesn’t win general elections,” Lazarus explained further.
“So the abortion comment to me is a sign that Trump thinks he has the primary sewn up. And I happen to agree with him on that one very small thing,” he said.