Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is closing the once-yawning polling gap with former President Trump as he inches closer to a 2024 White House bid.
A new Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey shared exclusively with The Hill on Monday put DeSantis’s growing strength into stark relief: Since last month, the Florida governor’s standing in a hypothetical 2024 Republican primary improved by 11 points, bringing him up to 28 percent.
Trump’s support, meanwhile, plummeted 9 points to 46 percent. While he still holds a double-digit lead over DeSantis, the poll marks a drastic shift in the former president’s political strength as he embarks on his third campaign for the White House in six years.
“Month after month DeSantis has been rising and now he is cutting significantly into Trump,” Mark Penn, the co-director of the Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll, said. “If they both run, this will be quite a race and Trump could well lose.”
Trump announced last week that he would once again seek the Republican presidential nod in 2024, making good on something he has been hinting at since he left the White House nearly two years ago.
While he had hoped to launch his campaign from a position of strength, the announcement came at a time when a growing number of Republicans are questioning his influence in the party and whether he’s the right candidate to carry the GOP into the next election.
That’s due, in part, to the outcome of the 2022 midterm elections. The so-called red wave that Republicans had long predicted ultimately failed to materialize. While the GOP clinched a narrow majority in the House, the party failed to recapture control of the Senate, and several high-profile candidates endorsed by Trump lost their races.
Since October, Trump’s overall favorability has fallen 5 percentage points. The latest Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey found that 44 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of the former president, while nearly half — 49 percent — view him unfavorably.
DeSantis, on the other hand, is riding high after scoring a landslide win in his reelection bid earlier this month. He defeated his Democratic rival, former Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), by a 19-point margin, while Republicans were successful in several other key contests in Florida. As a result, no Democrat will hold statewide office in Florida for the first time since Reconstruction.
That victory appears to be reflecting on his popularity among Republicans nationally. In a hypothetical GOP presidential primary without Trump, DeSantis remains the clear favorite for the nomination, with 46 percent of Republican voters backing him, according to the poll. That’s up from 40 percent last month.
At the same time, voters see DeSantis as one of the biggest winners coming out of last week’s midterm elections. Fifteen percent of respondents in the poll said that the Florida governor came out on top. By comparison, 20 percent of voters said that Trump was the biggest loser in the elections.
Yet Trump still outperforms DeSantis when it comes to a hypothetical 2024 general election, the poll found. In a match-up against President Biden, Trump leads 44 percent to 42 percent. Against Vice President Harris, he holds an even bigger lead — 47 percent to 40 percent.
DeSantis, meanwhile, is polling even with Biden, with each garnering 43 percent support in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup. With Harris on the ballot, DeSantis has a 3-point edge, notching 42 percent support to the vice president’s 39 percent.
Still, the 2024 election is nearly two years away, and DeSantis hasn’t yet made a final decision on a run, according to Republican sources.
Nevertheless, the tension between Trump and DeSantis is running high. Trump fired a warning shot at the Florida governor earlier this month when he issued a statement describing him as just an “average” Republican governor and taking credit for DeSantis’s victory in Florida’s 2018 race for governor.
He also derided DeSantis for playing coy with his 2024 plans, saying that “in terms of loyalty and class, that’s really not the right answer.”
DeSantis has largely brushed off Trump’s comments. Instead, he’s taken a victory lap in the days since the 2022 elections, touting his winning record and casting the GOP’s strategy in Florida as a model for victory nationwide.
“Florida really is showing a way out of this morass and this mess, but you got to be willing to do it and you got to be successful in implementing it and in times like these, there is no substitute for victory,” DeSantis said in a speech at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting in Las Vegas over the weekend.
The Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey was conducted Nov. 16-17 and surveyed 2,212 registered voters. It is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and the Harris Poll.
The survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval.