Aug 22, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Polls reveal Trump's FBI search bump

Photo illustration of bars on a bar chart with the last bar super tall and wearing a MAGA hat.
Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Oliver Contreras/Pool/Getty Images

Early data show the Mar-a-Lago search may have bolstered former President Trump's strength in a potential 2024 GOP primary, even though his fight with the FBI could mean vast new legal jeopardy.

Why it matters: An NBC News poll out Sunday shows Trump tightening his hold on Republicans. Several polls show him rising against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had been surging in key states.

What we're hearing: Several anti-Trump GOP strategists say they're worried the FBI search put wind in Trump’s sails.

  • A source close to Trump says the fundraising effect has been "yuge," re-engaging donors in the biggest way since he left office.
  • To juice up the base, Trump's fundraising texts and emails accuse the FBI of "breaking into my home," even though agents had a search warrant.

What's happening: When Trump was fading from the news cycle, Republicans were able to focus on criticisms of the left — such as COVID regulations, educational practices and accusations of media bias.

  • Those played to DeSantis' strengths, and even allowed him to get to Trump's right on some issues.
  • Since the search, Trump is once again at the center of attention. He has once again been able to align his own personal grievances with the Republican base — that a "Deep State" bureaucracy is out to get him.

The intrigue: Many Republicans fighting November's battle for the House and Senate are nervous about having midterms become more about Trump, when they want the conversation to be all about inflation.

  • Having Trump back at the center of the Republican Party conversation, they fear, means the party is looking backward — a tough way to win an election.

Reality check: FBI property receipts say agents carted away boxes of top-secret and other classified documents. And the search warrant says he was being investigated for potential Espionage Act violations. So Trump's legal peril could make any political dividends moot.

By the numbers: Several new polls show a rally effect for Trump.

  • A poll released last week by Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire shows Trump once again in a commanding primary position over DeSantis, 50%-29%. In June, a University of New Hampshire poll was the first in a wave of surveys to show DeSantis with momentum against Trump. DeSantis and Trump were statistically tied.
  • Sunday's NBC News poll asked GOP voters whether they’re more of a supporter of Trump, or of the Republican Party. Trump support spiked: 41% said they support Trump more than the party — up 7 points this summer. In May, 58% of Republicans said they identified more with the party, 34% with Trump.

The bottom line: These polls reflect the Republican mindset of "the more 'they' hate him, the more I love him" — an effect Trump instinctively recognizes and exploits.

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