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Ron DeSantis’ popularity: FL Gov. will be a clear favorite over Trump in 2024 primary

By Lee Cleveland - January 13, 2023

The 2022 Midterm Election cycle is one of the most iconic ever as Democrats managed to stay nearly even with Republicans despite the 40-year midterm trend for first-term presidents, inflation, gas prices, Biden’s modest approval rating, and overall public discontent.

Although traditional establishment Republicans fared well, the 2022 midterms were a disappointment for Republicans overall, especially the party’s MAGA faction. However, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was a MAGA bright, defeating a likable, well-known opponent in Charlie Crist by 19 percentage points in a state considered by some experts as only moderately red.

So, it wasn’t DeSantis’s victory, alone, in November that raised eyebrows, it was the margin. These days, we rarely see such lopsided results in races in which both parties’ nominees were considered to be live dogs three months prior to Election Night.

Florida is red but it’s certainly not Alabama, Mississippi, or Wyoming. Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama carried the state in 2008, then-Democratic U.S. Senate incumbent Bill Nelson trounced his Republican opponent there in 2012, and DeSantis’ previous opponent for governor came within a hair of defeating him in 2018, losing by just 0.04 percent. Test

It’s no wonder why some right-wing pundits, including firebrand author Ann Coulter, are encouraging fellow Republicans to support DeSantis in the 2024 GOP presidential primary should he run. He appears to have juice with independent voters.

It’s not surprising that many polls show DeSantis gaining on – and defeating – President Trump among Republicans even though the former has yet to announce his plans.

In December 2022, DeSantis led Trump 52% to 38% in the Wall Street Journal survey. Also, a USA Today/Suffolk University poll showed DeSantis up 56% to 33% over Trump in a head-to-head contest. And FiveThirtyEight.com released the below Trump vs DeSantis November/December poll results on January 10, 2023, collaborating with the aforementioned polls.

YouGovNov. 9-1142%35%
Léger/Association for Canadian StudiesNov. 11-134543
QuinnipiacNov. 16-204543
Marquette Law SchoolNov. 15-226040
PremiseNov. 19-204951
Fabrizio-Impact/Wall Street JournalDec. 3-75238
Suffolk/USA TodayDec. 7-115633
McLaughlinDec. 9-143658
Morning ConsultDec. 10-144544
Echelon InsightsDec. 12-144647
Harris/Harvard CAPSDec. 14-155248
YouGov/Yahoo NewsDec. 15-194543
YouGov/The EconomistDec. 17-204840

Why are the above numbers very bad news for Trump?

Answer: Trump is a well-known former president who is actively campaigning while DeSantis isn’t very well-known outside of Florida and isn’t campaigning. When or if the latter starts to actively campaign, his familiarity among Americans will grow and he’ll be even more popular among Republicans than he already is.

Essentially, DeSantis is already beating Trump without even trying while the former president is toiling almost daily in his effort to recapture the Oval Office.

Of course, reports suggest that DeSantis’ popularity rise is making him a greater target among his GOP critics.

Max Greenwood, in an article published by The Hill on January 12, stated, “Potential Republican presidential candidates and their allies are stepping up attacks on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as he emerges as the early frontrunner for the GOP’s 2024 nomination.

“In recent days, DeSantis has found himself on the receiving end of criticism from fellow GOP heavy hitters, like South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. He’s also rankled former President Trump, who’s running for the White House once again, and sees DeSantis as perhaps his biggest obstacle to securing the GOP nod.”

Even more bad news for Trump…. The criticism, as yet, isn’t tarnishing DeSantis among Republican voters.

Republican strategist Keith Naughton recently told The Hill, “They’re searching for something, just testing things out to see if they can get some traction. They want to slow down DeSantis a little bit so that they have a chance. The thing is, I don’t think that’s going to be easy to do.”

But, there is also some good news for Trump… While DeSantis might be able to easily beat Trump head-to-head, a crowded field of 10 or 15 candidates would certainly work in the former president’s favor. Even among Republican voters, die-hard Trumpers, although in the minority, are unwavering and are not likely to consider alternatives to Trump, even in a race with other politicians they like. As a result, Trump could win the Republican nomination with just 25 or 30 percent of the Republicans’ support in the 2024 primary.

A GOP strategist interviewed by The Hill and quoted anonymously wisely stressed that the 2024 Republican presidential primary doesn’t have to be Trump versus DeSantis head to head.

The strategist argued, “I think there is a sense that DeSantis isn’t bulletproof and that there’s still room for other people. The polling kind of reflects that, you know, sure, if it’s DeSantis and Trump, DeSantis looks really good. But with a bigger field, there’s no guarantees.”

Should DeSantis run and Trump elude jail time for his numerous crimes, look for the former president to jump to an early lead that’ll get slimmer and eventually evaporate as other candidates drop out.