Post Politics Now: Federal judge hearing arguments on releasing Mar-a-Lago affidavit

RealClearPolitics has a very early average of primary polling that gives us a good sense of where things are. Asked who they support as their party’s nominee in 2024, most Republicans (and, in some polling, independents who plan to vote in the GOP primary) say they prefer Trump. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is consistently in second, cruising along near 20 percent. …

Let’s consider these numbers in two contexts: how they compare historically and what they would mean if they held into late 2023. To the first point, the best recent point of comparison is Hillary Clinton’s lead at a similar point in the 2016 nominating contest. In an October 2014 poll conducted by The Washington Post and our partners at ABC News, Clinton led the field with the support of 65 percent of the Democratic primary electorate. Joe Biden came in second, at 13 percent. He ultimately decided not to run that year. Clinton, of course, went on to win the nomination — a point in Trump’s favors …

Which brings us to our second point: what if the current polling pattern holds by early 2024? A big if, yes, but let’s explore. If Trump is at or around 50 percent in polling — if he’s even at, say, 35 percent, as he was in early 2016 — he’s in a strong position. … Now the question becomes: will Trump’s lead hold? And we start to get into the instinctual stuff. … What DeSantis seems to be doing … is interesting. He’s making a bet on beating Trump at his own game, appealing to and energizing the right-most flank of the GOP by a relentless public focus on amplifying what the fringe is talking about. …

If GOP voters want to maximize their chances of electoral success while preserving as much of the Trumpian approach to politics as possible, the Florida governor is tanned, rested and ready to step in. If they want Trump, though? A substitute won’t suffice.