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Trend Watch: Another Day, Another DeSantis Polling Lead Over Trump

Screenshot via YouTube/NationalConservatism

A follow-up to yesterday's post, with all the grains of salt we've been discussing still very much in place.  Yet another national survey shows Republican voters filtering away from former President Donald Trump ahead of the 2024 cycle's primary season (see update), and the man many of them prefer has not yet even declared whether he'll seek the presidency.  But if you're part of Gov. Ron DeSantis' political team, and you're hoping that your boss will take the plunge, every data point like this reads like an open invitation from 'ready for Ron' voters.  The GOP electorate's appetite for a DeSantis presidential campaign certainly exists -- and could be described as robust, if not voracious.  On Wednesday, we wrote about the Suffolk/USA Today survey tracking a substantial double-digit lead for the Florida governor in a hypothetical head-to-head showdown.  Today, we bring you this:


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...“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.”

Why highlight an anodyne quote from one of the pollsters?  Because Tony Fabrizio is Trump's chief 2020 pollster, and he conducted this survey showing DeSantis outpacing Trump by double digits in a direct face-off scenario, the second data set in as many days to produce such a result.  Noteworthy.  The Journal write-up also notes that Trump leads among those voters who consider themselves "very conservative" (despite DeSantis being more ideologically conservative by any traditional, non-personality-driven definition), while Florida's chief executive leads among the other elements of the Republican-leaning electorate.  The new poll measures President Joe Biden's job approval rating at a meager 42 percent, with 56 percent disapproving.  Nevertheless, Biden narrowly leads Trump in a hypothetical re-match election.  The better news for Trump, at least within the context of a primary, is that DeSantis won't get a straight shot at him, one-on-one, and a crowded field could change the dynamic dramatically. 


"Support for Messrs. 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 Journal story reports. "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."  One prominent figure who appears to be strongly considering a 2024 bid is Trump's own former Vice President, Mike Pence.  In a head-to-head with Trump, this survey shows Pence trailing his former ticket mate by a whopping 35 points.  Polling has consistently shown Trump faring better in multi-candidate fields than a direct horserace against DeSantis:

Trump has a loyal base of 30-40 percent.  That's the biggest piece of a pie that's getting sliced many ways, which is why I continue to believe it would behoove Trump to encourage as many 2024 entrants as possible.  But that sizable base becomes a lot less potent if the rest of the party consolidates elsewhere.  Welcome to the 2016 dynamic all over again.  For that reason, in that cycle, Trump cruised to the nomination, despite only winning a plurality of votes over the course of the entire Republican primary season.  Are we destined for a replay of that collective action dilemma, resulting in another Trump nomination in 2024?  It's very plausible, but Nick Cotaggio (aka Allahpundit) isn't so sure the conventional wisdom on this subject is right anymore, provocatively making the case that even with a crowded initial field, this time could be different.  It's an interesting argument, even if I'm not fully persuaded.  Glancing at some hyper-premature state-level polling, Trump appears headed for some serious headwinds, particularly against the man he's preemptively attacked, understanding the political threat he poses.  Here are some fresh numbers out of a state Trump carried twice:


And this poll, for what it's worth (I'm totally unfamiliar with it), is out of New Hampshire, an influential early state in the nomination process:

Closely following the ups and downs of polling this far in advance of any votes being cast, as I'm doing here, is the curse of weirdo political obsessives.  It's mostly useless at this stage, but overall trends can be useful in detecting mood shifts among voters.  Fox's chief political anchor Bret Baier senses a 'change in the force:'

I've written previously about DeSantis' 2024 balancing act.  Based on the Journal piece quoted above, he'll have plenty of time to watch, wait, and calibrate that balancing act before jumping into the race, if he chooses to do so.  A significant little nugget:  "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."  His big move could be half a year away, with lots of official state business keeping him busy, and relevant, until then.  Meanwhile, Trump has already been a declared candidate for about a month, and we're still a week-and-a-half away from Christmas. Of 2022.  So we'll likely be treated to many "MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENTS" in the coming months-long slog.


UPDATE - Another poll out today, with a much more favorable result for Trump:

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