Trump holds just three-point lead over DeSantis among Florida Republicans in new poll

Former President Trump is leading Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by a scant 3-point margin in their home state, according to a New Emerson College Florida poll, the latest sign that the 2024 Republican presidential contest is turning into a two-way race.

In a hypothetical nine-way Republican primary, Trump comes out as the top vote-getter, notching 47 percent support among GOP voters in Florida. But DeSantis, who hasn’t yet announced a 2024 campaign, isn’t far behind, pulling roughly 44 percent in the match-up. 

No other candidate, declared or potential, manages to score double-digit support. Former Vice President Mike Pence comes in a distant third place, with just 3.5 percent of the vote, while former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, one of the few Republicans to have launched a White House campaign, gets just under 1 percent support.

The race between Trump and DeSantis may be close, but the poll is good news for Trump, suggesting that the former president has maintained an edge over his would-be primary rival, even in the state where voters know DeSantis best.

“Nearly one year out from the Florida Presidential Primary, DeSantis and Trump are in a two-way race for the Republican nomination, statistically even with one another,” said Spencer Kimball, the executive director of Emerson College polling. 

“While 90 percent of Republican voters approve of DeSantis, that does not translate into a firewall of support over the former President for the nomination in their home state.”

Of course, DeSantis hasn’t formally entered the 2024 contest and has repeatedly dodged questions about his presidential ambitions. Still, he’s actively preparing for a White House bid and is expected to make a final decision after the Florida state legislature wraps up its annual session in May.

While Republican voters may be split between Trump and DeSantis in the primary, what’s clear is that DeSantis remains far better positioned in the Sunshine State than President Biden.

Fifty-one percent of all voters surveyed say they approve of the job DeSantis is doing in the governor’s mansion compared to 42 percent who disapprove, according to the Emerson poll. Biden’s approval, meanwhile, stands at just 40 percent, with nearly 53 percent of Florida voters disapproving of his performance in the White House.

Trump, for his part, has begun more aggressively attacking DeSantis in anticipation of the latter’s White House bid. A super PAC aligned with the former president filed a complaint this week with the Florida Commission on Ethics, accusing DeSantis of running a “shadow presidential campaign” in violation of state and federal law.

If DeSantis ultimately decides against a 2024 run, Trump would become the instant favorite to win the GOP’s presidential nod. Among the three declared Republican presidential candidates — Trump, Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy — the former president scores a staggering 79 percent support, according to the Emerson poll. 

Haley sits in a distant second place with just 16 percent support, while Ramaswamy gets just about 6 percent.

The Emerson College poll surveyed 1,153 registered Florida voters from March 13-15. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

Tags 2024 presidential election Donald Trump Florida Mike Pence Mike Pence Nikki Haley Nikki Haley Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis

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