Donald Trump is very unpopular in the polls

While Trump hasn’t really left the political stage — thanks to his ongoing attempts to debate the 2020 election — his profile has been boosted recently by the FBI’s search of his Mar-a-Lago home, which uncovered classified documents. When he left the White House in 2021.

That is very bad for Republicans. While Trump remains very popular among the Republican base, he is decidedly unpopular among the general electorate.

The latest NBC News poll tells the story. Nationally, only 34 percent of registered voters said they had a positive view of Trump, while 54 percent said they had a negative view. But even those first-line numbers reveal how absent the former president really is. While 1 in 5 voters said they felt “very positive” about him, nearly half (46%) said they felt “very negative,” a big difference. (By comparison, 42% of voters viewed President Joe Biden positively, while 47% viewed him negatively).
And NBC’s results are far from the only poll showing this reality for Republicans. An August Quinnipiac University poll echoed NBC’s results, with 34 percent of registered voters viewing Trump favorably and 57 percent viewing him unfavorably.
What’s interesting about these numbers is that they’re unchanged from where they stood with the public when Trump left office. For example, a January 2021 Gallup poll showed that 34% of Americans approved of Trump’s job performance, while 62% disapproved. (The survey was on the ground during the riots at the US Capitol on January 6.)

Usually, poll numbers for presidents start to improve after they leave office, as people remember the good things about their tenure and forget the bad things as time goes on. That hasn’t happened to Trump, for two big reasons:

1) It has never been relegated from the national level.

2) January 6 was such a cataclysm that people have not forgotten.

Given Trump’s poor polling numbers, the best thing for his party — if he was worried about his party in the first place — would be for the next seven weeks to go down. That would give Republicans the best possible chance to frame the midterms as a mere referendum on Biden and the Democrats who control the House and Senate, rather than a choice between Biden and Trump.

However, there is little indication that Trump will follow that path. Consider this story from The New York Times, where Trump essentially invited himself to rallies for Senate candidates in Ohio and Pennsylvania:

“The question of how to handle Mr. Trump has so vexed some Republican Senate candidates that they have held private meetings about how best to respond to his team’s inevitable calls…

“This awkward situation reflects the contortions many Republican candidates are facing as they put the primary season behind them and head into the general election, where Democrats are trying to tie the former president.”

The struggle to escape Trump has resulted in some awkwardness. Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters scrubbed language about election denial and abortion restrictions from his campaign website. And it was New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Don Bolduc who turned from election denier to someone who called Biden the legally elected president in just one month.

The problem for these candidates is that it is nearly impossible to win any contested Republican primary without pledging total loyalty to Trump and the false belief that the 2020 election was stolen from him. But being so associated with election denial and Trump in the general election makes it very tough for a general electorate.

Trump is certainly the anchor around the neck of the Republican candidates at the moment. But this is Trump we’re talking about. So deliberately taking it out of the spotlight isn’t really what it does.