Florida governor takes enormous lead over embattled ex-president for 2024 race as Mike Pence nears a run of his own
Donald Trump looks on as Ron DeSantis speaks. Photograph: SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images
https://www.theguardian.com-Martin Pengelly in New York
In a new poll regarding potential Republican nominees for president in 2024, the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, led Donald Trump by a whopping 23 points.
Republican and Republican-leaning voters dealt the significant blow to the former president’s ego in a survey carried out by USA Today and Suffolk University and released on Tuesday.
There was good news for Trump in another poll covering the same time period, by Morning Consult, which gave him an 18-point lead over DeSantis. Furthermore, the polling website FiveThirtyEight still shows Trump in the lead in most surveys.
Nonetheless, David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, told USA Today: “Republicans and conservative independents increasingly want Trumpism without Trump.”
That much has been clear in the rise of DeSantis, a former US military lawyer and hard-right congressman who has pursued distinctly Trumpist hardline, theatrically cruel policies as governor of Florida, in particular on immigration and education.
Last month, DeSantis marked a crushing re-election victory with a confidant speech, declaring his state “where woke goes to die” to chants of “two more years”.
Trump declared his third consecutive run for the Republican nomination shortly after the midterm elections.
But he has shown precious little momentum, particularly after elections in which most of his endorsed candidates for key state posts and in Congress went down to defeat, contributing to a disappointing Republican performance.
Trump is also in extensive legal jeopardy, over his attempted election subversion, the retention of White House records and his business affairs.
USA Today said its poll showed that among Republican and Republican-leaning voters, enthusiasm for another Trump run is receding.
“In July, 60% of Republicans wanted Trump to run again. In October, that number had dipped to 56%. Now it has fallen to 47%, an almost-even split with the 45% who don’t want him to run for a third time.”
The poll put Joe Biden, the president, up 47%-40% in a notional rematch with Trump.
Biden is 80, Trump 76. Biden has said he will decide on whether to run again over the Christmas holidays.
The new poll put DeSantis, 44, ahead of Biden in a notional match-up, 47%-43%.
Paleologos sounded a familiar note of caution, saying a big primary field could divide Republican opposition to Trump and hand him the nomination again.
“Add in a number of other Republican presidential candidates who would divide the anti-Trump vote and you have a recipe for a repeat of the 2016 Republican caucuses and primaries, when Trump outlasted the rest of the divided field.”
Another likely candidate, the former vice-president Mike Pence, is edging closer to announcing a run.
Speaking in New Hampshire, an early voting state, on Tuesday, the former vice-president told Fox News the reception accorded his recent memoir “has been a great source of encouragement as we think about the way forward and what our calling might be in the future”.
Pence said he and his wife, Karen, would make a decision on whether to mount a run next year, after “prayerful consideration” over the holiday period.
“We’ll continue to travel, we’ll continue to listen,” he said.