Former President Donald Trump officially threw his hat into the ring for the 2024 presidential contest on Tuesday night.
Even though Trump is the first to enter the race for president and is automatically assumed to be the front-runner, he faces many challenges ahead.
His announcement came amid criticism from a potential primary challenger that independents were being turned off by the Republican Party with Trump as its leader.
“Independent voters aren’t voting for our candidates,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told reporters shortly before Trump announced his third bid for president. “Even with Biden in the White House and the failures that we’re seeing. That’s a problem.”
To explore the topic further, The Epoch Times interviewed several independent and moderate voters to determine who they would prefer as the Republican presidential nominee in a hypothetical matchup between Trump and DeSantis.
Voters Weigh In
“I’m not sure who I am voting for yet. It’s going to depend on their campaign promises and performance during the primaries if it goes that far,” said Brett Abbott of Chicago, who voted for Trump in past elections and identifies as a moderate Republican. “DeSantis seemed to have a bit of momentum after the midterms while Trump took most of his hits from the media and his party for midterm results.”
Abbot adds that he does believe Trump’s time has passed but he’s still the “party leader” and any primary challenger would need to be prepared for all-out war, “he’s a shrewd candidate, if DeSantis and Trump are up against each other it’s going to be brutal.”
Meanwhile, Kyle McKean, an independent voter in New York City who previously voted for President Joe Biden, says this time he’s all in for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. “If DeSantis runs he has my vote,” says McKean. “Despite the smears against his name in the forms of ‘Don’t Say Gay’ or that of women’s [re]productive rights, both of which were taken to hyperbole, he has remained consistent and fair. The Trump era is over.”
McKean says he used to be a die-hard liberal, but in the last decade, the divisiveness of both Democrat and Republican parties left him politically homeless, though he now tends to lean more conservative.
“Before the 2020 election there was major suppression of information regarding Hunter Biden by Big Tech,” he said. “That became a major turning point for me. It was clear that in terms of state-run media, stories ran in only run direction: That of ousting Trump.”
McKean believes that the overturning of Roe v. Wade hurt Republicans among independent voters and the idea of canceling student debt rallied young people to vote Democrat. It’s a similar refrain heard from independents who are of Generation Z.
“I feel like if the Supreme Court didn’t turn down Roe v. Wade the midterm elections would have turned more towards Republicans,” says 22-year-old Michael Jancaric, a member of the Texas National Guard and independent voter.
When asked if he would choose DeSantis over Trump in a hypothetical match-up, Jancaric says he would choose DeSantis, “I’m just tired of hearing about rigged election conspiracies and I think the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was completely unforgivable.”
DeSantis was very careful not to mention Trump by name during his critique and has been vague about the possibility of running against Trump in a presidential primary, but he did boast about his success at being reelected governor of the Sunshine State, “At the end of the day, I would just tell people to go check out the scoreboard from last Tuesday night.”
The governor of Florida wasn’t the only person to point out how poorly Republicans rank with independent voters. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell implicitly attacked Trump as being responsible for the lack of a “red wave” during the midterm elections.
“We underperformed among independents and moderates because their impression of many of the people in our party, and leadership roles, is that they’re dogged in chaos, negativity, excessive attacks,” McConnell told reporters at the Capitol. “And it frightened independent and moderate Republican voters.”
McConnell made the remarks after a question about a challenge he’s facing for Minority Leader in the Senate by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Florida), who has been endorsed by Trump.
Former Vice President Mike Pence might also launch a primary challenge against Trump.
Although the former president has several legal clouds hanging over his head, there is little doubt, even by many of his critics, that he still holds a firm grip on his MAGA base. And that could prove difficult to overcome, despite the belief that other potential primary challengers may have a broader appeal to moderate and independent voters.