Trump now leading DeSantis as 2024 GOP nominee, polls show

Former President Donald Trump (left) listens during a campaign event at the South Carolina Statehouse, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in Columbia, S.C.
He also criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (right) for potentially launching a 2024 bid for president. (AP Photo/MarAlex Brandon/Marta Lavandier)

(NewsNation) — A number of polls in February showed former President Donald Trump leading the GOP presidential primary field — putting him in a better position than he was earlier this year when polling showed him trailing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

In a poll taken by Emerson College, Trump held 55% of the vote in the 2024 Republican primary. DeSantis, meanwhile, got the support of 25% of Republican primary voters — although this is a decrease from January’s 29%. 

Other potential nominees including former Vice President Mike Pence, (8%) and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley (5%) saw an increase of two percentage points, but both still remained in single digits, according to Emerson. (Haley has said she’s running in 2024, while Pence has not yet committed to running.)

Likewise, Trump topped a Fox News survey on primary contenders — he received 43% of the vote from Republican primary voters, while DeSantis got 28%. Haley and Pence, in this case, were tied at 7%.

DeSantis hasn’t officially declared he’s running for president — but he nonetheless still emerged as a leading contender for the 2024 GOP nomination. Recently, he released a book, titled “The Courage to Be Free,” and he is scheduled to headline two Republican fundraisers in Texas on Saturday. 

Polls in January initially showed DeSantis ranked above Trump, especially as some leading Republicans blamed the former president for Republicans not doing as well in the 2022 midterm elections as expected. But now, Trump has taken the lead, showing he is more resilient than party insiders expected, according to NewsNation partner The Hill.  Another YahooNews/YouGov poll from last month found Trump beating DeSantis 47% to 39%, while Echelon Insights found that among likely voters, Trump led DeSantis in a two-way race, and was also on top when the two were up against Pence and Haley.

“I think Trump’s position is stronger than I thought it was,” said Vin Weber, a GOP strategist and former member of the House GOP leadership, told The Hill.

Trump was once a supporter of the Florida governor, but he has criticized DeSantis as he has become the former president’s chief rival for the nomination. 

In a previous interview with NewsNation, Trump said DeSantis was not even going to be a factor in the 2018 GOP gubernatorial midterm primary until he endorsed him.

“I got him the nomination. He didn’t get it. I got it, because the minute I made that endorsement, he got it,” Trump said of the man he has called “Ron DeSanctimonious.” DeSantis has brushed this off as “just noise.”

When it comes to the 2024 Democratic nominee for president, Emerson College found a strong majority of Democratic voters, 71%, think current President Joe Biden should be their party’s nominee. His approval, in the Emerson College national survey, was at 44%. A Marist Institute for Public Opinion poll also found that support for Biden is growing among Democrats, with 50% of them, and Democratic-leaning independents, saying the party has a better chance of winning the White House with the current president as its nominee.


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