Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continue to be the two top choices for the 2024 GOP Presidential nominee in the eyes of Republicans according to the latest Monmouth University Poll.
The Jersey Shore polling outfit found that DeSantis is the current leader in a head to head contest despite Trump gaining some ground over the past two months. The national poll released Feb. 9 found the two men are preferred to other popular GOP officeholders as they begin to consider if they will make a run for the White House.
Trump and DeSantis both received 33% from Republican respondents from whom they would like to see as the nominee for President from their party in 2024. The next closest potential candidates was former Vice President Mike Pence at 2%, followed by former South Carolina Governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, all at 1%.
Assessing the Field
“Trump and DeSantis are grabbing most of the media attention, so it is not surprising that most Republican voters do not come up with any names other than these two,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
In December 2022, DeSantis (39%) held an advantage over Trump (26%) as the top-of-mind choice for the nomination, but the number of Republican voters who name the Florida governor has since declined by 6 points while the former president’s mentions have increased by 7 points.
DeSantis vs. Trump
When the two candidates are placed in a hypothetical head-to-head match, DeSantis comes out on top by a 53% to 40% margin, including a slight 49% to 46% edge among those who call themselves “strong Republicans.” Inside the numbers, DeSantis is preferred over Trump among nearly every major voting bloc in the party, with the notable exceptions of those earning less than $50,000 a year (53% for Trump to 38% DeSantis) and those age 65 and older (49% to 43%).
“Both Trump and DeSantis are well-liked by the party’s rank and file, but it’s likely that voter opinion of Trump is more firmly set than it is for DeSantis right now. The unknown factor is whether DeSantis can maintain this early edge if and when he gets on the campaign trail,” said Murray.
Republican voters hold overwhelmingly positive views of both DeSantis (80% favorable and 6% unfavorable) and Trump (74%/18%).
Moreover, DeSantis (82%) and Trump (80%) have similar favorable ratings among a key GOP voting block—evangelicals. The Florida governor, however, does better among non-evangelicals – 77% favorable compared with 66% for Trump.
In a two-person contest, DeSantis has a slight lead over Trump among evangelicals (51% to 44%), but a large lead among non-evangelicals (56% to 34%). Just 27% of Republican voters overall, and 26% of evangelicals, think Trump should run as an Independent if he does not win the GOP nomination.
“Trump is still admired by the evangelical voters who were crucial to his nomination in 2016. And many of the early primary states have larger evangelical voting blocs than the national electorate,” said Murray. “However, Trump’s evangelical support in a hypothetical primary with DeSantis is currently not strong enough to overcome his relatively weaker standing among non-evangelical Republicans.”
The poll also paired these two potential candidates against Cruz, who was the runner-up in the 2016 GOP contest. Even though he is well-regarded among Republican voters (73% favorable and 13% unfavorable), Cruz comes out on the losing side in a head-to-head match by 48 points with DeSantis (67%-19%).
As for Trump, the Texas Senator is behind by 29 point to Trump (60% -31%), similar to a hypothetical question Monmouth asked Republican voters prior to the 2020 election cycle, when Trump was the incumbent (66% Trump to 21% Cruz in January 2019).
“If DeSantis chooses to run against Trump it will be very difficult for any other candidate to get Republican voters to take a close look at them,” said Murray.
Haley Expected Entry
While DeSantis has not yet formally declared his intentions, Haley is expected to throw her hat into the ring this week. The former South Carolina governor earned positive reviews from her party’s electorate, 47% favorable and 11% unfavorable. However, one-fifth of these voters do not have an opinion of her (22%) and another fifth have not even heard of her (19%).
“Haley’s favorable ratings are solid among Republican voters who are familiar with her. The problem is she is an unknown commodity for a large chunk of the potential primary electorate,” said Murray.
Other possible 2024 GOP candidates are in the same situation as Haley, including Pompeo at 41% favorable and 16% unfavorable, with just under half having no opinion, and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin at 36% favorable and 8% unfavorable, with just over half offering no opinion.
While Pence is a better known figure, he has higher negatives than other possible candidates included in the poll – 55% favorable and 28% unfavorable with less than one-fifth having no opinion of him.
Slick evil trumps blind evil. Neither would be good for America. (And slime me all you want, right wingers; there’s nothing you could say that would make me think otherwise.)