“If the next Republican primary for president in your state was held today, and the candidates were Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Josh Hawley, Kristi Noem, Mike Pence, Marco Rubio, Tim Scott And Donald Trump for whom would you vote?” a new Carter Wrenn survey asked respondents.
In response, the poll found that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump were in a virtual tie in a hypothetical 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Only a single point separated Trump at 26.2% from DeSantis at 25.2%, well within the poll’s margin of error.
While the finding is generating headlines, don’t take it as a lock that DeSantis has closed the gap on Trump’s popularity among GOP voters.
First, Wrenn conducted the poll on behalf of former Trump senior official John Bolton’s SuperPAC. Bolton’s estranged relationship with Trump raises questions about how honest respondents were about their support of Trump. Moreover, Trump’s polls have underestimated Trump’s support since 2015 surveys.
Second, DeSantis would have to flip members of Trump’s base against him to defeat him head-to-head. As of now, that’s a grave challenge even if DeSantis would give Republicans a better shot than Trump in a general election. As I argued after Paddy Power released odds for 2024, Trump has a significant built-in advantage among Republican voters. Trump has the power to turn his base against any GOP candidate who challenges him. And he would if anyone stands his way.
That roadblock all has to do with Trump and nothing to do with DeSantis. Gov. DeSantis checks off the boxes. He is beloved among Republicans, has an edge, and is a savvy messenger. If Trump doesn’t run in 2024, a straw poll in Orlando suggests Republicans would view DeSantis as the clear frontrunner. With that, I agree.
Finally, as much as the press is hoping for a Trump-DeSantis Civil War in the Republican party — there has been no indication DeSantis would challenge Trump. There’s an argument that if DeSantis waits, he could inherit Trump’s staunchest supporters in 2028.
Donald Trump still controls the Republican party. So opposing Republicans need Trump to lose it — because the field is not yet equipped to take it from him.