This morning, The New York Times published what, by my estimate, is the forty thousandth mainstream media article purpoting to show that Republicans voters are ready to dump Donald Trump -- no, for real this time.

Poll results are presented:
In a recent Associated Press survey, 44 percent of Republicans said they did not want Mr. Trump to run for president again....

In a reversal from Mr. Trump’s White House days, an NBC News poll in late January found that 56 percent of Republicans now define themselves more as supporters of the Republican Party, compared to 36 percent who said they are supporters of Mr. Trump first.

The Trump-first faction had accounted for 54 percent of Republican voters in October 2020.
But then we get numbers from Patrick Ruffini, a GOP pollster.
Mr. Ruffini polled Mr. Trump vs. Mr. DeSantis last October and again this month. Then, Mr. Trump led by 40 percentage points; now, the margin is 25.
There's some slippage, but please note that Trump still gets 57% of the vote, compared to DeSantis's 32%. (All the numbers are here.) So if it's true that, according to that NBC poll, only 36% of Republicans consider themselves Trump supporters first, it's also true that voters who don't consider themselves Trumpers still intend to vote for Trump.

Ruffini tries to massage the numbers in order to get a bad result for Trump.
But among Republicans familiar with both men, the gap was just 16 points, and narrower still, only nine points, among those who liked them both.
So Trump is still beating DeSantis by 16 when name recognition is equalized -- except when you poll just Republicans who like both of them. There's just one problem: Elections don't work like that. Challengers don't get to choose an electorate made up exclusively of people who like them.

Ruffini insists that the numbers look bad for Trump for other reasons.
“His voters are looking at alternatives,” Mr. Ruffini said of Mr. Trump. While there is scant evidence of any desire for an anti-Trump Republican, Mr. Ruffini said, there is openness to what he called a “next-generation Trump candidate.”
In fact, Ruffini polled precisely that. He asked his poll respondents which they'd pick: Trump or
A conservative Republican candidate who was a strong supporter of Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020, vocally opposed Covid lockdown and vaccine mandates, would have fired Anthony Fauci as president, and wants to represent the future of the MAGA movement.
Trump crushes this dream "next-gen" candidate by 17 points.

(And there's no interest in "A conservative Republican candidate with a measured and responsible tone who didn't agree with Donald Trump's actions following the 2020 election and on January 6, 2021." Trump crushes that candidate by 29. So put away your childish dreams of Liz Cheney wresting the nomination from Trump, or from anyone else.)

I know, I know: Trump's numbers have slipped. If this continues, Trump seems vulnerable.

But these poll numbers came at a time when Trump was mostly lying low. That won't be the case if he runs. And remember that anyone who dares to challenge Trump will be humiliated by Trump, the way Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio were in the 2016 campaign. It'll get ugly.

Republican voters won't dump Trump, because if they do, we win -- "we" being the hated Democrats and RINOs and mainstream media. Voting for DeSantis will never be the thumb in our eye that voting for Trump is.

This could change if Trump faces serious legal problems. But just being indicted won't necessarily hurt Trump. Remember, he survived two impeachments with undiminished GOP support. Trump is very good at gulling the rubes into believing he's doing fine when he really isn't. When his businesses were in trhe process of losing a billion dollars, he published a book called Trump: Surviving at the Top. He lost an election in 2020 and convinced tens of millions of voters that he actually won. He's good at this.

But if it's obvious even to his fan base that he's pinned down by DAs or the Justice Department, it's over. That's why Bridgegate killed Chris Christie's reputation on the right: not because Christie did something wrong (Republican voters don't care if their heroes do that), but because all the investigations and indictments and jokes made him look weak. A bully can't sustain his reputation if it looks as if he's being bullied.

On the other hand, when has Trump ever gotten his comeuppance? He's never been truly held accountable. There's a good chance he never will be. In which case, DeSantis should bow out and wait for 2028.