After Super Tuesday, Trump Is Stronger Than He’s Ever Been

About 18 months ago, Donald Trump suffered one of his worst political defeats, when many of his loyalists and handpicked candidates were defeated in a midterm landscape that clearly favored the Republicans. A lot of people — I was one of them — thought that this might be the beginning of the end for him, a stark indicator of political weakness that would encourage G.O.P. voters to abandon him or set him up for a decisive general election defeat.

Instead today Trump arguably occupies a more politically commanding position in American politics than at any other point in the past eight years. His romp through Super Tuesday last night completes the replay of 2016’s Republican primaries, with his opposition once again fatally divided and his coalition this time much stronger from the start. And while the residual support for Nikki Haley indicates some persistent discontent, the polls that matter are the ones that show Trump consistently beating President Biden — a show of strength beyond anything he managed at a similar point in his previous two presidential runs.

How did we go from defeat and apparent weakness to recovery and strength? Start with the most important political result of the Republican disappointments in 2022, which was not the temporary blow to Trump but the brief return of Biden’s mojo, pre-empting any effort within the liberal coalition to make an issue of his age and push him out for 2024.

Sticking with Biden didn’t just mean that Democrats were stuck with apparent presidential decrepitude to go along with an unpopular economic record. It also meant that the argument among Republicans for Trump’s unelectability, briefly potent enough to lift Ron DeSantis in the polls, fizzled out quickly: With every new survey showing Biden struggling, it became harder and harder for DeSantis and then Haley to persuade voters who liked Trump that it was time to turn the page.

In saving Biden, then, the midterms eventually helped revive Trump. So did the return of liberal lawfare, which was in abeyance during Biden’s first two years but came back with a vengeance in the run of indictments, lawsuits and attempts to remove Trump from the presidential ballot.

There is an understandable liberal frustration with all attempts to make Trumpism out to be some kind of unbeatable political force, given how many bruising defeats he and his allies have suffered at the ballot box. But there is a clear pattern where you can’t expect to beat Trump except at the ballot box — because all the attempts to investigate, impeach and prosecute just don’t have the desired political effect.

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