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Recently Released Poll Provides Crucial Insights for Republican Primary and Beyond

AP Photo, File

Now that another major player for the Republican presidential nomination – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – has officially entered the race, it's going to be even more critical to look at the polls ahead of 2024. President Joe Biden is likely to be his party's nominee even though many Democratic voters don't want him to run again and are concerned with his age and mental fitness. It's looking likely, at least for now, given the poll numbers, that the Republican nominee will be former and potentially future President Donald Trump (which brings us to a rematch of 2020) or DeSantis. Given that DeSantis just announced on Wednesday, it may take time for the polls to accurately reflect how much of a lead Trump has over DeSantis. In the meantime, a just-released poll from CNN with devastating results for Biden is worth examining in light of who he might be facing in the general election.

We say Biden will "likely" be the Democratic nominee, but that's not a given. "Biden has a lead over Democratic primary challengers, but faces headwinds overall," reads the headline for the CNN poll write-up. Given Biden is the incumbent president and leader of the party, and the DNC isn't going with any debates, he absolutely should have a lead. However, he only sits at 60 percent. Twenty percent of respondents support Robert F. Kennedy Jr., 8 percent support Marianne Williamson, 8 percent support "someone else," and 5 percent have "no opinion." 

It gets worse from there, given that a majority of Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents registered to vote, at 55 percent, say they "might change [their] mind" regarding who they support. Among those who support Biden, RFK Jr., or Williamson as their first choice, 45 percent say they will "definitely support" their candidate.

The write-up does have a helpful breakdown from there:

Biden’s primary supporters are largely locked in: 58% say they would definitely support him and 42% say that they could change their minds. In contrast, those backing other candidates are far from committed, with just 19% in that group saying they definitely will support their first-choice candidate and 81% saying that they could change their minds.

The poll suggests that Biden would likely win the support of the vast majority of Democratic-aligned voters in 2024. Just 14% in that group say they wouldn’t back him in the primary. And only 7% say they definitely would not support him in November 2024 should he win the party’s nod.

But the results signal that Biden could face a challenge keeping Democratic-aligned White non-college voters in his camp in next year’s general election: 16% of these voters say they definitely won’t support Biden in November 2024, compared with 1% of White Democratic-aligned voters with college degrees and 5% of Democratic-aligned voters of color.

Biden’s weak spots in the race for the nomination are concentrated among independents who lean Democratic (40% back Biden for the nod, compared with 67% among self-identified Democrats) and younger voters (49% of those younger than 45 say they back Biden compared with 68% among those age 45 or older).

Majorities of all Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters say they would at least consider backing either Kennedy (64% support him or would consider him) or Williamson (53% back her or would consider her), but when asked to explain the main reasons they would consider each of them, few seem deeply tied to either candidate.

It's worth reminding that Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H. W. Bush won their party's nomination after facing a serious challenger when running for reelection but lost in the general election. 

The poll is even worse for Biden as only 35 percent of respondents have a favorable opinion of him, which is a record low for him in this poll and among the lowest for any first-term president since Dwight Eisenhower. As the write-up also mentions:

Just a third of Americans say that Biden winning in 2024 would be a step forward or a triumph for the country (33%). At the same time, the survey finds a decline in favorable views of Biden over the past six months, from 42% in December to 35% now. And results from the same poll released earlier this week showed Biden’s approval rating for handling the presidency at 40%, among the lowest for any first-term president since Dwight Eisenhower at this point in their term.

Curiously, neither the poll nor its write-up makes mention of DeSantis, though it was conducted before he became an official presidential candidate. There might still be lessons to be learned from this poll, specifically concerning who might fare better against Biden, assuming he is the nominee. 

Specifically, while 83 percent of Republicans say a Biden win would be a "disaster," it's a statistical tie with the number of Democrats who think Trump winning would be a "disaster," 82 percent. That doesn't sound like Trump would have much crossover appeal. The numbers do fare worse for Biden among overall respondents in that 66 percent say a Biden win would be a "disaster" or "setback" compared to 56 percent who say the same about Trump. 

The poll's write-up also mentioned the advantages Biden has in a matchup against Trump:

The poll finds that one advantage Biden held over Trump in their first matchup in 2020 – a stronger favorability rating – may have evaporated. Among all Americans, 35% say they have a favorable view of Biden and 57% an unfavorable one, numbers near identical to Trump’s. Positive views of Biden stood at 42% as recently as December, and among independents over that time, his favorability has dipped from 35% to 26%.

During his Wednesday press call in which he took a question from Townhall about winning the primary and then the general, DeSantis raised concerns about having a "factional candidate" who "is not acceptable to the broad swath of people in the party." In addition to touting his massive appeal among Republican voters, DeSantis stated he won 97 percent of Republican voters in the Florida gubernatorial election last November and spoke to the importance of "winning a significant percentage of independents," who he thinks "want to move on from Biden," which he thinks is "pretty clear." Though in his mind, "they just want to have a vehicle that they're comfortable with." DeSantis added he considers Florida to have been "a good landing spot for a lot of those voters." 

The CNN poll, released on Thursday afternoon, was conducted May 17-20 with 1,227 adults and a margin of error of 3.7 percent. Broken down by party, 29 percent self-identified as Democrats, 30 percent as Republicans, and 41 percent as independents or members of another party. 

A more recent poll released on Friday detailed results from Iowa, as Brittany Sheehan discussed at our sister site RedState. The findings aren't good for DeSantis, as Trump has a 42-point lead over him, with 62 percent support compared to DeSantis' 20 percent. The Emerson College poll was conducted May 19-22 before DeSantis announced his candidacy. But as Sheehan points out, Florida is the bigger battle and mentioned DeSantis' $8.2 million earned in fundraising as of Thursday night. 

In taking a separate question from Townhall during that same press call, DeSantis did not seem deterred by Trump's lead. "I would be shocked if the former president wasn't leading when it comes to his name ID," DeSantis said about Trump, pointing to how he's one of the most recognized figures in the world in addition to having previously been the president. 

DeSantis, however, did acknowledge the nationwide recognition he has received and the support that has been bestowed upon him during his time as Florida's governor, arguing, "I don't think there has been a governor in the modern history of the party that has had more nationwide support" than he has now. He went on to tout his "record of accomplishment that [he doesn't] think anyone can match either."

According to RealClearPolitics' (RCP) average of polls, Trump has a +32.6 point lead in the primary. He also currently has a +1.4 point lead over Biden, compared to DeSantis' +0.6 point lead over Biden. 

Are the CNN poll findings and reactions a slam dunk for Republican wins in 2024? One would like to think so, but we thought the same thing during last year's midterm elections, and we all saw how well that turned out. Further, RCP on Thursday published Matt Towery's "A Lot Has to Change Quickly for Republicans to Have a Chance in 2024," where he wrote from a pollster's perspective. 

Bonchie, also at our sister site RedState, points to how CNN's own Jake Tapper referred to the poll as "horrible news, horrible for Joe Biden." 

All of these findings could provide a lot of insight. Here's hoping that if the Republican Party wants to win, it actually takes it to heart. 

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