By Mary Lou Masters
- While former President Trump leads most 2024 GOP national primary polls, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis leads several state polls ahead of former President Donald Trump, in states where polling is available and recent.
- State primary polls are more indicative, especially those in early primary states, because there is no national primary election.
- “The biggest takeaway is if you’ve got two people that are just way out ahead of the rest of the field,” Jim Hobart, Republican pollster, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
While former President Donald Trump continues to lead national polls for the 2024 GOP primaries, state polling is more of a determining factor, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is topping several important states.
In states with the most recent primary polling, DeSantis leads in five– Alabama, California, Michigan, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. There are several other states in which he leads, but with several caveats.
In Kansas, Maryland and Missouri, DeSantis beats Trump in a head-to-head matchup, however, in a field of other current and potential candidates, the former president leads.
In New Hampshire, February polling indicates DeSantis leading, and then flipping to Trump the next week. Polling from Jan. 19 – 23 suggests that DeSantis would win in a primary field 12 percentage points ahead of the former president, but a few days later, Trump took over by 11 percentage points.
It is more meaningful that candidates poll well in state polling because it is more indicative of the primaries’ outcome than national polling, as a national primary doesn’t actually exist, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“You’d rather be winning them than losing them,” Jim Hobart, Republican Pollster, told the DCNF regarding state polls.
Contenders definitely would rather be leading in state polls than national polls, especially in early primary state polls, Kyle Kondik, managing editor for Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a nonpartisan political analysis newsletter, told the DCNF.
In Alabama, DeSantis is ahead by nearly 20 percentage points in a head-to-head matchup with Trump. In California, the governor leads the former president 37% to 29% in a field of 11 potential GOP candidates.
DeSantis beats Trump in a head-to-head matchup in Michigan, 47% to 42%. In Pennsylvania, DeSantis leads Trump 37% to 32% in a field of contenders. In North Carolina, the governor wins against Trump, with a 12.7 percentage point lead.
In Florida, Georgia, Iowa and Tennessee, DeSantis leads, but no 2023 polling has been done.
While it is good DeSantis is leading in these states, it is difficult to decipher how he will fare in the primaries before he officially enters the race, said Kondik.
Trump leads the governor in Arizona, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia, in recent polling.
In Arizona, Trump tops a crowded field at 42%, and DeSantis trails with 26%. In a head-to-head matchup in Mississippi, the former president leads the governor by 23 percentage points.
In a five-candidate field, Trump leads the pack with 35.1%, followed by DeSantis with 21.8% in South Carolina. In Virginia, Trump tops DeSantis in a field of contenders, by 11 percentage points.
In Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas and Utah, the former president leads, but no polling for 2023 is available.
While it’s good to be polling well in state primary polls, many of their primaries are so far away, and so much will happen before then that could change things, said Hobart.
“The results from the early states will generally have some impact on opinions in the later states, too,” said Kondik.
Hobart indicated that while Trump has been leading in national primary polls, it doesn’t mean anything, as it reflects an election that’s never going to happen. Historically, candidates who poll well initially in national polls don’t end up faring well, but Hobart noted this particular situation might serve different purposes, as there is a former president who is leading nationally.
“National presidential primary polls just aren’t at all predictive of what’s actually going to happen,” said Hobart. “They’re the only polls that never get done, where you’re polling a race that is never going to happen. We don’t have a national primary, and so it’s just a weird thing to poll.”
For instance, in 2007, Rudy Giuliani was leading national primary polls for the 2008 presidential election, and then “flamed out,” and John McCain ended up with the GOP nomination, Kondik mentioned. In 2015, Jeb Bush was leadingnational primary polls for the 2015 presidential election, and Trump became the Republican nominee.
“The biggest takeaway is if you’ve got two people that are just way out ahead of the rest of the field,” said Hobart.
The former president and DeSantis consistently poll at the top and are the two clear front runners, with no one else in the double digits. Hobart notes how “rare” this early matchup is very unusual, and there hasn’t been any situation in modern history that compares.
“I think it’s unique to have two people who are such clear front runners right now. And I think that’s why you’re seeing a field that’s so slow to develop,” said Hobart. “The story is that you have two people who are very, very much the front runners. Everyone else is mired in single digits hoping that maybe they can become this third choice type of option.”
Not only has the governor not held any federal position before, he has yet to officially enter the race, and is polling so consistently at the top with a former president, they said.
“DeSantis is really polling impressively for someone who has never run for president before, is not a sitting vice president…I think it does show that there is at least some openness to another candidate on the Republican side, someone other than Trump,” said Kondik. “Trump is also the first former president who’s really actively sought the presidency again in, like, a real way…defeated, ex-president, who still has constitutional eligibility to be president, seeking the nomination again,” said Kondik.
Neither DeSantis’ team or the Trump campaign immediately responded to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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