Trump extends poll lead over DeSantis — and nobody else matters

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Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump. AP

Trump extends poll lead over DeSantis — and nobody else matters

TRUMP EXTENDS POLL LEAD OVER DESANTIS — AND NOBODY ELSE MATTERS. In the RealClearPolitics average of polls, there are 59 polls, going back to January 2021, on the Republican presidential race. In 58 of them, former President Donald Trump was the leading candidate, sometimes by huge margins. There was one poll, from CNN, done between March 8-12, that showed Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) in the lead. The margin was small — DeSantis led Trump by just 2 points — but the significance was big. Here was a first sign that perhaps another Republican candidate could overtake Trump in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Now, though, in just a short time, about two weeks after the CNN poll was taken, it appears that Trump is reasserting his lead among GOP voters. Several recent polls have shown a larger Trump margin than during the brief period earlier this year when DeSantis seemed to be advancing.

It’s worth looking at one poll as a case in point. The Monmouth University poll is respected as a high-quality survey with a distinct bias toward Democrats. So keep that in mind when assessing its results for Republican voter sentiment. And a number of its polls are not included in the RealClearPolitics average. Nevertheless, one can look at changes in its results over time — the last three months, specifically — to see possible movement in the GOP race.

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Monmouth was perhaps the first major pollster to show DeSantis leading Trump. In a poll taken from Dec. 8-14 last year, it found DeSantis ahead of Trump by a 39% to 26% margin. Now, that was with a simple question — “Looking ahead who would you like to see as the Republican nominee for president in 2024?” — and with the poll-taker not listing any names for the respondent. So the pollster waited for the respondent to come up with an answer. With that setup, DeSantis led Trump, 39% to 26%, with no one else above 2% and a very large number, 25%, saying they just didn’t know. So that was a DeSantis lead in December when other polls showed Trump ahead, although not by huge margins.

Monmouth polled again in late January. Same question — who would you like to see as nominee? — and no list of names. In that poll, taken from Jan. 26 to Feb. 2, DeSantis and Trump tied at 33% each. Like before, a very large number, 24%, said they did not know who they wanted to be the GOP nominee.

Now there is a new Monmouth survey, taken March 16-20. Same question, same setup. And in it, Trump leads DeSantis by a significant margin, 41% to 27%. Since the pollsters did not read any names to respondents, virtually no other candidate registered at all, and 23% said they didn’t know who should win.

But there it is — a series from December to today with DeSantis in the lead at first, the two tied in the middle, and Trump ahead now. Now, perhaps you say it is totally unreliable — DeSantis up by 13 points in December? Who says that? — but this is the same pollster with the same biases using the same methods three times in a row. That means there is probably some movement going on, and it is from DeSantis to Trump. (The pollsters took care to point out that most of the last survey was completed before talk of a possible Trump indictment dominated the news.)

There are plenty of reasons for that. Trump has obviously been slamming DeSantis on a virtually daily basis, not the sort of pummeling that Trump has done in the past but hitting DeSantis progressively harder, and that takes a toll. It’s why we’re seeing DeSantis, who was originally reluctant to hit back, now taking some shots at Trump. It’s not anywhere near a thermonuclear exchange at this point, but it’s early still.

But the biggest takeaway is that even though DeSantis has not declared his candidacy, the race is taking on the characteristics of a race, with voters responding to daily developments. Right now, it is a two-man race — apparently, respondents, without prompting, cannot come up with any names other than Trump and DeSantis — but it is still a race.

For a deeper dive into many of the topics covered in the Daily Memo, please listen to my podcast, The Byron York Show, available on the Ricochet Audio Network and everywhere else podcasts can be found. You can use this link to subscribe.

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