For months, Donald Trump has been attacking Ron DeSantis, hoping to convince him to stay out of the race. This curious strategy seemed to defy the confidence he otherwise projected about his chances to win the GOP nomination. And Trump has certainly had reason to be confident. Polls have consistently shown him with a substantial lead in national and several state polls. Just last week, Trump’s campaign highlighted a Florida Atlantic University poll showing Trump with a 28-point lead over DeSantis in DeSantis’s home state of Florida.
“Former President Trump continues to be a strong candidate for the Republican nomination, and his support appears durable and consistent,” Kevin Wagner, professor of political science at FAU, said in a statement. The poll, released earlier this month, was conducted in mid-April—well before DeSantis announced his presidential campaign.
Why attack a fellow Republican when he’s not a threat? Well, the most obvious answer is that Trump knew very well that DeSantis, more than any other Republican, was indeed a threat, and a new poll conducted by Victory Insights proves it.
According to the poll, the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination in Florida is now a two-way horserace, as DeSantis is now in a virtual dead heat with former Trump. The poll found DeSantis has 38.2% support, while Trump gets 38% of the respondents’ support, and 12% are undecided. No other Republican candidate garnered more than 3.1% of support in the survey, which has a margin of error of 3.9%.
In a head-to-head matchup between DeSantis and Trump, the governor maintains a slight lead within the margin of error. DeSantis received support from 40.2% of respondents, while Trump garnered 39%, and 20.8% remained undecided.
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What does it mean? Well, senior pollster Ben Galbraith isn’t sure. “One could argue that DeSantis’ jump in the polls is a knee-jerk reaction to his announcement, one that will pass quickly. However, one could also make the argument that this is just the start of DeSantis’ campaign, and as he continues his outreach to voters, his vote share will increase. For now, all we know is that the race is close – and far from over.”
DeSantis previously led Trump by 10.9 points in November, but Trump had a 14.8 lead in this poll last month.
DeSantis donors believe that Florida could be the state that decides which candidate will win the nomination. “We’re probably going to know who the nominee is after the state of Florida votes on March 19,” pollster Ryan Tyson told donors. “Florida is a winner-takes-all state.”
The significant shift in the race can be attributed to what a recent CBS News/YouGov poll discovered about the GOP primary race. The poll revealed that a substantial portion of former President Donald Trump’s support comes from swayable GOP primary voters.. Interestingly, only 24% of GOP primary voters are exclusively considering Trump, while 27% are not considering him at all. The majority, 49% of GOP primary voters, are open to considering either Trump or another candidate.
Governor Ron DeSantis’s official entry into the GOP primary has undeniably altered the dynamics of the race. With DeSantis now an official candidate, GOP voters are more likely to consider him as a viable option, thereby impacting the support previously held by Trump.