Donald Trump’s attacks on Ron DeSantis failed to convince the popular Florida governor to stay out of the race, and according to Trump’s most die-hard supporters, DeSantis has failed to prove himself a viable contender. To hear them say it, DeSantis’s launch was a disaster, and he’s collapsing in the polls. By their estimation, he might as well drop out and waddle back to Florida with his tail between his legs.
Except the reality is that DeSantis has proven that he can compete with Trump, and potentially win the nomination.
An analysis of Republican polling trends in Reuters/Ipsos surveys reveals that there has been a shift in support towards DeSantis. And it’s not a small shift. Donald Trump’s 37-point advantage declined to 21 points between April 6 and June 9—a 16-point increase in net support for Ron DeSantis.
“If these trends persist, in another three months, Trump and DeSantis should be in a virtual tie,” notes Brandon Weichert of 19FortyFive. “In fact, DeSantis and Trump already are in the key battleground state of Iowa. Trump’s constant—manic—attacks on DeSantis are a dead giveaway just how close to Trump that DeSantis is getting in the polls.”
This poll shift demonstrates exactly why Trump aggressively attacked DeSantis before he was even in the race, and why DeSantis remains his most regular target. I’ve noted for weeks that recent polling shows that a significant portion of Trump’s support comes from swayable GOP primary voters. A CBS News/YouGov poll found that nearly half of GOP primary voters, 49%, would consider either Trump or another candidate. Meanwhile, only 24% of GOP primary voters are exclusively committed to considering Trump, and 27% have no intention of considering him at all.
Trump’s campaign must have known that DeSantis had the potential to chip away at his support. There was no other reason to attack him so aggressively given his wide lead in the polls.
Now, I suspect that the recent indictment of Trump by the Biden administration will cause a rallying effect behind Trump. However, just as the Manhattan indictment rallying effect faded, so will this one, and Ron DeSantis may find himself gaining support from GOP voters who feel he’s a safer bet and less toxic than Trump, with considerably less drama.
Various polls have shown that both Trump and DeSantis can win the 2024 presidential election, but there are concerns that Trump’s legal issues could make it difficult for him to campaign at the height of the presidential election season—which may very well be the Democrats’ strategy. In fact, in November of last year, Biden promised that he would use whatever power he has as president to make sure that Trump doesn’t make it back to the White House.
So, make no mistake about it, despite his current (and admittedly sizable) lead, Trump’s victory in the primaries is not a guarantee. It’s only June, and there’s plenty of time for DeSantis to chip away at Trump’s lead….
…and perhaps win it all.