5 things we've learned about the GOP primary so far

Trump continues to dominate, while DeSantis continues to fade.

Glenn Youngkin, Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis and Tim Scott.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Eight months ago, Donald Trump’s third presidential run was generating little enthusiasm — and plenty of mockery. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, meanwhile, was hailed as the GOP’s newest star.

Now, with the first debate of the GOP primary less than a month away, Trump is the clear frontrunner for his party’s presidential nomination, while DeSantis has been fading in the polls — and the Republican establishment has been desperately looking for another candidate able to attract both MAGA voters and moderates.

Read more from our partners: George Will: Trump and DeSantis will be GOP primary losers

Trump isn’t going anywhere

Donald Trump at a political rally in Erie, Pa.
Former President Donald Trump at a political rally in Erie, Pa., on July 29. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

The most recent New York Times/Siena poll of Republican voters finds Trump easily leading the Republican field, with 54% of respondents saying they were most likely to vote for him over other GOP contenders for the presidential nomination.

DeSantis is a distant second, at 17%.

Multiple indictments have done nothing to chip away at Trump’s support. If anything, they have solidified his popularity with the GOP base, which shares many of his grievances.

“If they can do it to Trump, where he can defend himself,” one focus group respondent recently said, “I can only imagine how it would be if it was just a normal person. I feel like he stands for the small people.”

Read more from Yahoo News: Trump faces more indictments, fines and possible jail time as legal troubles mount

Mounting legal troubles

Special counsel Jack Smith.
Special counsel Jack Smith. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Trump has already been indicted by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on improprieties related to a payment he made to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels; he also faces 37 counts related to his alleged mishandling of classified documents, boxes of which he removed from the White House after his presidential term concluded. Three more charges were added to the original 37-count indictment in a superseding indictment that describes, with added detail, extensive efforts at obstructing a federal investigation into the documents’ whereabouts.

Special counsel Jack Smith is also expected to file more charges related to Trump’s participation in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. In Atlanta, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is reportedly preparing to charge Trump with trying to meddle with Georgia’s results in the 2020 presidential election.

A guilty verdict in any one of those cases could result in a lengthy prison sentence.

Read more from our partners: Fulton County DA says work is done in Trump probe and ‘we’re ready to go’

DeSantis continues to struggle

Ron DeSantis was supposed to be “DeFuture,” as the New York Post called him after the Florida governor defeated his Democratic competitor, Charlie Crist, by 19 points in last November’s election.

But ever since he launched his presidential campaign during a Twitter Spaces event full of technical malfunctions, DeSantis has struggled to convince voters that he is a superior candidate to Trump. His “electability” argument has been severely damaged by several mistakes, including a homophobic campaign ad, a video containing Nazi symbolism and an argument over slavery.

For now, however, DeSantis stands alone in second place in the primary field. His political action group, Never Back Down — which can boost his candidacy but cannot coordinate with the campaign — has more than $100 million it intends to spend in early-voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire. His supporters say he may be down but not out.

Read more from Yahoo News: DeSantis disappoints, and some Republicans seek new Trump-slaying savior

Republican alternatives

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin. (Benjamin Girette/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Donors and establishment Republicans are desperately looking for a candidate who can fulfill the promise they once thought DeSantis had.

With his optimistic personality and inspiring personal story, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina has drawn comparisons to Ronald Reagan. “He’s the one guy running who’s got some personality and charisma. His delivery is terrific,” a top Republican donor told Politico earlier this month.

The problem for Scott is that he’s stuck at 3% in the latest New York Times/Siena poll, well behind DeSantis.

Rupert Murdoch, whose conservative media empire helps set the national Republican agenda, is reportedly a fan of Glenn Youngkin. The primaries are still six months away, giving the Virginia governor time to build out a campaign, but he would be entering a crowded field dominated by Trump. He may thus conclude that it is safer to wait until 2028, as some believe DeSantis should have done.

Read more from our partners: Few Americans know Sen. Tim Scott, but some Democrats see him as a tough general election opponent

The case against Biden

Lost in the coverage of candidates’ jostling for donors and endorsements is the fact that whoever emerges from the Republican primary will have to make a pitch to general election voters who are, on the whole, much more moderate and less interested in culture war issues than the conservative GOP base.

So far, that pitch has not come into view.

Polls continue to show that Joe Biden remains an unpopular president. Questions about his age are not going away. Neither are concerns about his vice president, Kamala Harris.

But the economy continues to recover from the pandemic, with fears of a recession starting to fade.

It is true that many Americans believe that the country is heading in the wrong direction, but they don’t yet know what direction Republicans would like to take.

Read more from Yahoo Finance: The Republican case against Biden is fizzling