Trump gears up to run after midterms. Many Republicans appear unexcited

Former U.S. President Donald Trump talks to the press on the grounds of his Mar-a-Lago resort on midterm elections night in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. November 8, 2022. REUTERS

BIRMINGHAM, Michigan — Former President Donald Trump has spent months teasing a 2024 presidential run, suggesting to supporters on the eve of Tuesday’s midterm elections that he would throw his hat into the ring as soon as next week.

“I’m going to be making a very big announcement on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida,” Trump told supporters at a rally for Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance.

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But in a national polling survey and in interviews, voters in three battleground states on Tuesday expressed concerns about the 76-year-old Republican former president’s age, his polarizing personality and his ability to compete in a general election.

“I will do anything I can to keep him from running,” said Gordon Nelson, 77, who cast an all-Republican ballot on Tuesday in Birmingham, Michigan. Nelson voted for Trump twice, but now blames him for the nation’s tense political climate and for the Democrats’ majority in Congress.

“He’s divisive. I don’t like him,” he said.

Nelson’s opinion was shared by six other Republican voters in Arizona, Georgia and Michigan who Reuters interviewed on Tuesday, most of whom brought up their distaste for Trump unprompted.

While that sample is unscientific, polling indicates that tens of millions of Republicans share the same view. About 60% of Republicans surveyed by Reuters/Ipsos last month said they thought Trump should run again in 2024, with 36% saying he should not. In an exit poll published by Edison Research on Tuesday, six of 10 respondents said they had an unfavorable opinion of the former president.

Strategists and party leaders say Trump remains the odds-on favorite for the Republican nomination in two years, especially if the heavy Republican gains expected on Tuesday night materialize.

But that level of dissent could nonetheless embolden a potential Republican primary challenger, with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis chief among them should he decide to run, according to opinion polls.

Other potential contenders include South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who many voters credit with combining conservative politics and less divisive rhetoric.