DJT shares slide into bear market territory

Stock Market Graph next to a 1 dollar bill
Stock Market Graph next to a 1 dollar bill (showing former president Washington). Red trend line indicates the stock market recession period claffra/Getty Images/iStockphoto

DJT shares slide into bear market territory

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Think of Donald Trump as a financial stock. He made a big bet on DJT shares just as they were about to tank. He has gambled on brilliant prospects at the very moment they could go out like a light.

Trump was already a long-term investor, but he massively upped his stake when he announced his third bid for the presidency. It was an in-your-face purchase, a statement buy, supposedly showing confidence that the stock was going to fly for the next two years, right up until Election Day 2024.

LATEST POLL HAS TRUMP LOSING BIGLY TO DESANTIS AND BIDEN

But his flat and dreary launch, not the glitz surrounding it, told a very different truth. It was a profoundly unpropitious start, to put it mildly. Trump was meandering, purposeless. He looked like the chairman of a company struggling to explain to skeptical shareholders why he had just made a questionable strategic acquisition.

The shareholders, supporters gathered in Mar-a-Lago’s great room to listen to their erstwhile hero, got bored and started chatting among themselves. Some tried to leave the room and had to be barred from doing so by security staff.

The former president’s campaign launch was no act of confidence but was, rather, an act of bravado, made from weakness. The congressional and gubernatorial candidates Trump had endorsed in the midterm elections had just been demolished. In consequence, the former president himself had been exposed as a drag on the Republican Party — its once but not its future leader.

Stumbling through the rubble of his midterm hopes, Trump seems to have decided he needed a bold gesture to show he wasn’t rattled. His answer was to declare for the White House earlier than anyone had in modern times, as though there was a popular clamor for another four years that had gathered irresistible momentum and could no longer be assuaged. But it was an unpersuasive conjuring trick — the sort where you can see the hapless magician’s clumsy sleight of hand.

Almost as soon as Trump left the Mar-a-Lago stage, setbacks tumbled down on him in an avalanche. His communications with state officials to overturn the 2020 election were subpoenaed, the Trump Organization was convicted of fraud, and a federal court nixed the special master he wanted to look into the FBI raid on his Florida resort home. It felt as though these setbacks had been held in waiting and were then released in a flood for maximum embarrassment after Trump had crossed the Rubicon with his launch and couldn’t go back.

Then he went from awful to worse by lunching with Kanye West, an outspoken antisemite, and Nick Fuentes, a white supremacist whose character may be best captured by his oleaginous joke doubting that it’s bad to be compared to Hitler.

Trump appears to believe that because his supporters admire his willingness to punch back rather than cower when faced with criticism, all he has to do is to show defiance in every circumstance, no matter how egregious. It is as though any outrage will do. But ugliness alone, to put it tautologically, is not appealing. Being repellent is not a strategy, at least not a vote-winning one. When Trump’s schtick worked, it was because it was backed by popular substance on immigration, for example, or on confronting China. If Trump doesn’t own his policies exclusively, his sole defining quality is his aggressive defiance and embrace of the unpersuasive.

It is in this light that one must look at new polling that shows how far Trump’s stock has sunk. A new USA Today / Suffolk University survey shows him 23 percentage points behind Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) among GOP voters (56%-33%). Only 31% want the former president to run again for the presidency, compared to 61% who want someone else to carry on his policies. And 65% want DeSantis to run. In a hypothetical matchup, President Joe Biden beats Trump 47%-40% among all voters but loses 47%-43% to DeSantis.

“Republican and conservative independents increasingly want Trumpism without Trump,” David Paleologos, the director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, told USA Today.

DeSantis is already seen as a possible successor, and the danger for him is that he may have come to prominence too early, months before he emerges, probably in February or March, as an official candidate for the GOP presidential nomination.

But he has hardly put a foot wrong politically for two years or more, and perhaps he can do the same for the next two years. That’s to be seen. But what already seems clear is that Trump’s political stock is in bear market territory. Sellers are growing in number. Perhaps he can turn it around, but the bust is staring him in the face.

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