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News > U.S.

Trump Faces Obstacles in Fight to Clinch White House

  • Former U.S. President Donald Trump.

    Former U.S. President Donald Trump. | Photo: X/ @fr_russie

Published 5 March 2024

He faces low favorability ratings, sensitive issues such as abortion, as well as his multiple criminal trials, which could undermine public confidence.

With his recent sweep of the Republican presidential primaries, former U.S. President Donald Trump is inching closer toward the GOP nomination.


US Holds 'Super Tuesday' Primaries

In his fight to regain the White House, Trump, however, faces myriad hurdles, including low favorability ratings, sensitive issues such as abortion, as well as his multiple criminal trials, which could undermine public confidence and alienate swing voters.


"Trump's major obstacle to getting elected is the perception that he is rude, chaotic, and vindictive," Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West said.

"Independent voters are particularly sensitive to character issues so he has a lot of work to be done with those voters," he added.

Indeed, critics said Trump has a strong sense of grievance and holds particular ire for people he sees as having opposed him, including those who have worked for him.

"What I'm worried about is what he says and how it has destroyed America, the civility between human beings in this country," Helena Fox, an independent voter, said at a recent Nikki Haley rally in Camden, South Carolina.

The former president recently mocked the dress of former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, candidate for GOP nomination, saying it was a "fancy dress that probably wasn't so fancy."

Trump has for years been known to engage in personal attacks on opponents' physical appearance, particularly if that opponent is a woman. That does not sit well with many women voters, a major U.S. voting bloc.

Clay Ramsay, a researcher at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, said that Trump's polling numbers are a problem.

"His favorability ratings are low, hovering around 40 percent," Ramsay said. According to latest data from the polling website FiveThirtyEight, 43.4 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Trump.

Over fifty percent view him unfavorably and "to win, his people would have to succeed in getting this number down," Ramsay pointed out.

The text reads, "Pro-Trump people create and share fake images of smiling black voters standing next to Donald Trump to encourage African Americans to vote Republican."


Trump could also feel the sting of voters who disagree with the Supreme Court decision to leave abortion laws to U.S. states.

The Supreme Court had removed states' discretion to regulate abortion in 1973 and created a federal right to abortion in the case of Roe vs. Wade. But in June 2022, the highest court in the nation reversed five decades of legal precedent in one fell swoop, determining that U.S. states and not federal law should dictate abortion laws.

Three Trump appointees - Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett -- voted to overturn Roe v. Wade. Trump, the de facto leader of the anti-abortion Republican Party, took credit for the result of the contentious decision to revoke federal abortion rights.

"In the absence of federal protections, state legislatures have become arbiters of abortion access, with some states banning or severely restricting abortion and others improving and protecting it," the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, argued.

Critics said the decision amounted to judicial overreach and has stirred the ire of voters nationwide. Trump has consistently evaded inquiries regarding his stance on signing a national abortion ban if reelected, while criticizing Democrats as "radical" for their support of late-term abortions.

"Trump and his people, and most Republican Party officials, are perfectly aware that they might lose the presidential election on this issue alone," Ramsay said.

Christopher Galdieri, a political science professor at Saint Anselm College, said that Trump needs to muddy the waters on abortion, which has been costing Republicans since the summer of 2022.


As he vies to reclaim the White House, Trump currently faces four criminal indictments totaling 91 felony counts, which could undermine his chances of winning.

He was indicted for mishandling top secret documents, and for working to overturn the results of the 2020 election in the run-up to the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol Riot, among others, becoming the first former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges.

Trump's camp said the cases are a politically motivated attempt to manipulate the courts to prevent him from assuming office. Whatever the case, experts said the trials are a major distraction and a financial drain on the former commander-in-chief.

In 2023, Trump allocated US$51.2 million for legal fees and has access to an additional US$23.5 million, primarily held in an allied super political action committee.

Those funds, however, are expected to run out around July, when the Republican National Convention officially starts the general election campaign. The question remains whether the trials will stop Trump's re-election bid.

A recent poll, released from Bloomberg and Morning Consult, found that 53 percent of voters in key swing states would refuse to vote for Trump if any of the four criminal trials he is facing results in a conviction.

A conviction is "absolutely a potential dealbreaker in an election that either (Trump or President Joe Biden) could win or lose for a whole variety of reasons," said GOP strategist Doug Heye, a former communications director for the Republican National Committee.

Trump's best chance is for this election to be a referendum on Biden's term and not a choice between Biden and Trump.

"Essentially he needs to make the election about anything other than himself if he wants to win it. But he also insists on being the center of attention, and his legal proceedings guarantee he will stay in the news in the worst possible ways throughout much of the year," Galdieri said. 


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