DeSantis Holds Lead Over Trump Among GOP Primary Voters

From a Wall Street Journal story by John McCormick headlined “Ron DeSantis Holds Early Lead over Donald Trump Among GOP Primary Voters, WSJ Poll Shows”:

Republican primary voters have high interest in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a potential 2024 presidential nominee and view him more favorably than they do former President Donald Trump, a new Wall Street Journal poll shows.

In a hypothetical contest between the two, Mr. DeSantis beats Mr. Trump, 52% to 38%, among likely GOP primary voters contemplating a race in which the first nomination votes will be cast in just over a year.

The poll found that Mr. DeSantis is both well-known and well-liked among Republicans who say they are likely to vote in a party primary or nominating contest, with 86% viewing the Florida governor favorably, compared with 74% who hold a favorable view of Mr. Trump. One in 10 likely GOP primary voters said they didn’t know enough about Mr. DeSantis to venture an opinion of him.

Among all registered voters, Mr. DeSantis is viewed favorably by 43%, compared with 36% for the former president. Favorable views of Mr. Trump were the lowest recorded in Journal polling dating to November 2021 and have been pulled down by a decline in positive feelings among Republicans. Since March, his favorable rating among GOP voters has fallen to 74% from 85%, while the share who view him unfavorably has risen to 23% from 13%.

The decline in Mr. Trump’s standing among GOP voters follows midterm election losses that some in the party have attributed to his significant involvement in candidate endorsements and promotion during the primary process.

Democrats had a net gain of two governorships and one Senate seat, while limiting their House losses to single digits, despite high inflation and with an unpopular president leading their party. The result bucked a historical pattern in which the party that holds the White House almost always suffers a double-digit loss of seats in the House during a president’s first term.

Mr. Trump is the only Republican who has announced a 2024 presidential bid, although others are expected to do so in the coming months. If Mr. DeSantis decides to run, aides have said he isn’t likely to announce a White House campaign until after Florida’s legislative session ends in May.

Mr. DeSantis has become a formidable force in politics, winning a second term last month in a landslide—by 19 percentage points—reflecting big gains in support in Florida since his first election, by less than half a percentage point, to the governor’s office in 2018.

Support for DeSantis and Trump could look different in what will surely be a multicandidate primary field than it does in a head-to-head matchup. The former president was able to win his party’s 2016 nomination in part because the large number of candidates fractured support among non-Trump alternatives.

“It is going to be a competitive primary,” said Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio, who works for a pro-Trump super PAC and conducted the Journal survey with Democratic pollster John Anzalone. “The two favorites right now would be Trump and DeSantis.”

Mr. Trump has triggered a series of controversies since his campaign announcement a month ago. He has suggested that provisions of the Constitution should be terminated to overturn the 2020 election so he could be reinstated into power and dined with a white nationalist and a musician who has made anti-Semitic remarks. In addition, a New York jury convicted his family business of criminal tax fraud.

The Journal poll shows that those who are very conservative favor Mr. Trump over Mr. DeSantis, 54% to 38%, while those who say they are just somewhat conservative back Mr. DeSantis over Mr. Trump, 59% to 29%. More moderate GOP primary voters overwhelmingly favor Mr. DeSantis, although they are not the ones who tend to dominate the primary process.

The 76-year-old former president beats Mr. DeSantis among those with a high school education or less, while the 44-year-old Florida governor does better among likely GOP primary voters who are college educated. Mr. DeSantis does better among suburban and urban GOP voters, while the two men are essentially tied in rural areas.

The Journal poll found little support among Republicans for Mr. Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, as a 2024 candidate. Barely half of Republican voters, some 48%, hold a favorable view of Mr. Pence and Mr. Trump easily beats him in a head-to-head matchup, 63% to 28%. Mr. Pence has this year repeatedly visited states that vote early in the nominating process and said he is considering a White House bid.

In a hypothetical 2024 general election rematch, President Biden leads Mr. Trump 45% to 43%, with 12% undecided. That edge is within the poll’s margin of error and is essentially unchanged from October, when the two men were tied.

The president’s job approval is also essentially unchanged from October, with 42% approving and 56% disapproving. Mr. Biden has suggested he is likely to seek a second term and plans to reveal his intentions early next year.

The Journal poll of 1,500 registered voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points for the full sample, was conducted Dec. 3-7 by Impact Research and Fabrizio, Lee & Associates. The margin of error was plus or minus 6 percentage points among likely Republican primary voters. Half of the poll participants were reached on their cellphones, with the remaining split evenly between landline phones and text messaging accompanied by an online survey.

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