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Monday, December 11, 2023 | Back issues
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Poll shows GOP voters gathering around Trump as DeSantis flounders

Months out from the 2024 presidential primary, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis struggles to win over GOP voters still loyal to the MAGA banner.

(CN) — To raise money and cement support for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the former president's website is selling a $36 T-shirt printed with his photo and the caption “unfinished business.”

The tagline seems to be sticking with voters, according to a Monmouth University poll published Tuesday that found more than half of Republican voters are backing the former president’s campaign to represent the GOP in the general election against incumbent President Joe Biden.

While Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been pegged as a rising star among conservative constellations, his campaign to rein in “the Great American Comeback” remains overshadowed by Trump’s MAGA brand. 

“DeSantis has not made any headway. The arguments that he’d be a stronger candidate and a more effective president than Trump have both fallen flat,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute in a statement.

Researchers from Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, New Jersey, spoke with 681 Republican and right-leaning voters earlier this month.

The poll found "Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ efforts to paint himself as both a stronger candidate and a more effective leader than Trump have largely failed to connect with the GOP electorate."

Trump’s favorability ratings with right-leaning voters have remained consistently high since Monmouth started primary polling at the beginning of the year. Nearly four out of five voters reported having a favorable view of Trump.

DeSantis’ favorability rating relatively remains high, but dropped from 80% in February to 65% in Tuesday’s poll.

The nation's first primary elections will be held in February, making the fall a crucial time for campaigns to solidify messaging and ramp up fundraising.

The poll results come as Politico reported the DeSantis campaign cut 38 jobs, about a third of its staff, including 10 newly announced positions for event planners. Two senior campaign advisers also left while others moved around to fill vacancies.

Just over half of Republicans, 52%, still align themselves with the MAGA movement, named after Trump’s 2016 campaign promise to “Make America Great Again.”

While DeSantis is favored among 47% of Republicans who do not identify with MAGA, 39% of non-MAGA Republicans still say they would back Trump in the primary.

Forty-five percent of Republican voters polled said Trump would “definitely” be the strongest GOP candidate to stand against Biden, while 24% said Trump is “probably” the strongest.

About one in five people think DeSantis would be a better candidate to run against Biden, but nearly half of people found DeSantis to be a weaker candidate compared to Trump. A quarter of voters said Trump and DeSantis would be equally strong against Biden.

Nearly half of voters aren’t worried about the impact of the criminal indictments Trump faces in New York and Florida. A quarter of people polled think the charges may hinder his ability to defeat Biden.

Murray attributes Republicans' willingness to overlook the criminal charges to Trump’s ability to own the narrative.

“Trump has successfully pushed a politics of grievance where the system is out to get you. In that light, the criminal charges seem to make him an even stronger advocate in the eyes of many Republicans,” Murray said in a statement.

Asked to name their preferred 2024 presidential nominee, 46% of Republican voters picked Trump and 20% said DeSantis.

Given a list of 14 potential candidates, 54% chose Trump and 22% picked DeSantis. Five percent of people picked entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Other candidates, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and former Vice President Mike Pence, each earned hypothetical votes from 3% of people polled.

Monmouth reported that the results have changed little over the last two months since DeSantis first announced his candidacy on Twitter.

A March poll from Monmouth found that while Democrats like Biden’s work in the White House, many lacked enthusiasm for his reelection bid.   

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