(The Hill) — Former President Donald Trump dominates the field of potential contenders for the 2024 Republican presidential nod, but Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is an early favorite for the nomination in the event that Trump doesn’t run again, according to a new Harvard CAPS/Harris poll shared exclusively with The Hill.
In a hypothetical eight-person GOP presidential primary, Trump holds a clear edge, garnering 57 percent support among Republican voters. DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence are nearly deadlocked at 12 percent and 11 percent, respectively. No other would-be candidate tested in the poll registers double-digit support.
Should Trump forgo another campaign for the White House, however, DeSantis would supplant him as the frontrunner. The Florida governor scores 30 percent support in a field that doesn’t include Trump, while Pence takes second place at 24 percent.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) gets 14 percent support in such a scenario, according to the survey.
The poll underscores the continued hold that Trump has over Republican voters as he weighs a 2024 comeback bid. While he hasn’t offered a definitive answer to the question of whether he will run for the White House again, he has repeatedly teased another campaign and has begun to ramp up his political operation ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
The poll also comes amid heightened tensions between Trump and DeSantis, who is up for reelection this year but has been seen as a strong potential contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
While the two men have been close political allies, Trump has bristled privately at DeSantis’s refusal to say whether he would run for president if Trump decides to launch a campaign for the White House.
He has also taken thinly veiled shots at the Florida governor in recent weeks, saying in an interview with the conservative One America News Network earlier this month that politicians who won’t reveal whether they’ve received a COVID-19 booster are “gutless.” DeSantis has repeatedly declined to answer questions about his booster shot status.
Trump, DeSantis and their allies have sought to push back on reports of a rift between the two Republicans. In a recent interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Trump called accounts of the tensions “fake news” and insisted that he has “a very good relationship with Ron and intend to have it for a long time.”
Regardless of who wins the 2024 Republican nomination, both Trump and DeSantis appear to be on solid political ground.
In a hypothetical head-to-head matchup against President Joe Biden, Trump leads 46 percent to 40 percent, according to the Harvard CAPS/Harris poll. He has an even wider lead over Vice President Harris, carrying 49 percent support to her 39 percent.
DeSantis, meanwhile, polls nearly even against Harris. In a hypothetical matchup, the Florida governor notches 40 percent support to Harris’ 39 percent. Another 21 percent are either undecided or unsure of how they would vote in such a scenario.
While Biden has indicated that he plans to run for a second term in the White House in 2024, he doesn’t have the kind of broad support among Democrats that Trump carries among Republicans. In a hypothetical Democratic primary, Biden scores 32 percent support, while Harris wins 14 percent. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, are tied at 11 percent.
In the event that Biden decides to step down after his current term in the Oval Office, Harris would be the narrow favorite to win the Democratic presidential nod, with 23 percent of Democratic voters supporting her. Clinton trails in second place in that scenario, with 17 percent support, while Sanders takes 12 percent.
“It’s way too early to make predictions about 2024 as early polls usually end up not being a good predictor of what happens,” Mark Penn, the co-director of the Harvard CAPS/Harris poll, said.
“Trump is starting out in a fairly strong position with Republicans while Biden and Harris have surprisingly little support among Democrats for incumbents. Trump is also starting out reasonably well positioned for the general but he seems to be benefiting by being out of the limelight and there’s no telling what would happen if he steps back in.”
The survey of 1,815 registered voters was conducted from Jan. 19-20. It is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and the Harris Poll. It was an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics.