DeSantis holds early lead over Trump among GOP primary voters

Trump announced his bid for president in mid-November — just days after a number of candidates he’d endorsed in the midterms lost their races, weakening his standing in the GOP as more and more Republicans have begun to distance themselves from Trump. DeSantis hasn’t definitively said yet whether he’ll run, but his popularity and rising star power in the Republican Party point to a high likelihood that he’ll soon launch a campaign for president.

DeSantis won reelection in November by almost 20 points over his Democratic challenger, Charlie Crist. Florida, too saw a red wave, outperforming the GOP nationally. His strong showing provided DeSantis weeks of accolades and set him up for a 2024 run.

DeSantis is also leading Trump on favorability among all registered voters in The Wall Street Journal poll, with 43 percent viewing the Florida governor favorably, compared to Trump’s 36 percent. The poll found low favorability for Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence, who is also expected to run for president in 2024. Less than half of Republican voters, 48 percent, hold a favorable view of Pence, and Trump beat him in a landslide in a test matchup between the two potential primary contestants, 63 percent to 28 percent.

The poll also has President Joe Biden leading Trump in a hypothetical 2024 election for president, 45 percent to 43 percent, with 12 percent undecided.

Other recent early polls for 2024 forecast similar outcomes for Trump and DeSantis. A CNN poll released Wednesday showed DeSantis with higher favorability ratings among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents than Trump, at 74 percent and 63 percent, respectively.

The same poll showed declining support among Republican-aligned voters for another Trump presidential run: 38 percent of those voters want to see Trump run again, compared with 50 percent at the start of 2022.

DeSantis runs away with the contest for an alternative candidate among that same group, the poll showed — 38 percent of Republican-leaning voters seeking a candidate other than Trump favored DeSantis, and no other potential nominee was picked by more than 1 percent.

Seprately, a Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll this week showed that 65 percent of Republican voters and independents who identified as either conservative or very conservative want DeSantis to run for president, with 56 percent saying they preferred the Florida governor to Trump.

But a recent POLITICO/Morning Consult poll did indicate that it could still be Trump’s party, even if his grip may be weakening. Forty-seven percent of polled Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they would back Trump if the Republican primary was held today, compared to 33 percent who said they would back DeSantis. Notably, though, was the surge of support for DeSantis in the post-midterms poll, up from 26 percent who said they would back the Florida governor in a pre-election poll.

The Wall Street Journal’s poll of 1,500 registered voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points for the full sample and was conducted from Dec. 3-7. The margin of error was plus or minus 6 percentage points among likely Republican primary voters.

The CNN poll was conducted by SSRS during the first week of December with a random national sample of 1,208 adults drawn from a probability-based panel. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

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