Ron DeSantis Has Been Closing the Gap on Donald Trump: GOP Primary Polls

Amid reports of ongoing tensions between the pair, recent polls suggest Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been closing the gap on Donald Trump regarding who should be the next Republican presidential candidate.

While Trump is still the overwhelming favourite to win the GOP candidacy for the 2024 election, DeSantis has clawed back some ground on the former president.

According to an Ipsos Mori poll conducted in mid December, more than half of Republicans (54 percent) say they would back Trump as the GOP nominee for President, with DeSantis a distant second with just 11 percent—a total of 43 points behind.

However, two more recent surveys showed that opinion of DeSantis is improving slightly.

A YouGov poll conducted between December 14 and 20 showed that while 55 percent of Republicans still back Trump, DeSantis got the backing of 20 percent of respondents as their top choice for the race to the White House, slimming the margin to 35 percent.

The Florida governor was also the top second choice, with 37 percent naming him their backup pick for the party's nomination.

"At present, Donald Trump remains the clear favorite among Republicans for the 2024 presidential nomination," noted Jesse Rhodes, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll.

"However, DeSantis enjoys considerable support, and may well give Trump a run for the nomination, especially given how much baggage Trump carries with moderates, independents and swing voters."

In another Cygnal poll conducted January between 7 and 9, 2022, Trump remains the favorite among likely GOP primary voters, although his support dipped to less than half, to 47 percent. While still a distant second on 19 percent, DeSantis did cut the margin down further to 27 points in the latest poll.

DeSantis can also look to two other YouGov polls conducted in mid December as a positive sign. One survey puts him at 23 percent, just 21 points behind Trump, with another at 26 percent, and so only 17 behind Trump overall.

The polls showing DeSantis pulling more support from potential GOP voters arrives following reports that the former president is starting to turn on one of his biggest allies.

According to Axios, citing unnamed sources, Trump has been openly talking about how he does not consider DeSantis a threat for the nomination, describing him as having "no personal charisma and has a dull personality."

Trump is allegedly irate that DeSantis has not officially ruled himself out as running for the GOP nomination, even if Trump puts his hat into the ring, as long expected.

Trump also appeared to make a thinly veiled attack on DeSantis while criticizing "gutless" politicians who won't confirm or deny if they have had the third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine during a recent interview with the One America News Network.

Although Trump did not mention DeSantis by name, the governor has swerved a number of questions about whether he has had a COVID-19 booster shot in recent weeks.

Soon after Trump's remarks, DeSantis told conservative podcast Ruthless that he regrets not speaking "much louder" against the enforcement of COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 in an rebuke of Trump's actions.

"When COVID was first coming, you know, we were actually engaged in it," DeSantis said. "I was telling Trump, 'Stop the flights from China' because we didn't know what we were dealing with. But you know, I never thought in February, early March, that it would lead to locking down the country. I just didn't. I didn't think that was on the radar."

DeSantis has been contacted for comment.

Ron DeSantis polls
Ron DeSantis speaks with U.S. President Donald Trump at a campaign rally at the Pensacola International Airport on November 3, 2018. Recent polls suggest the Florida governor is closing the gap on Trump in polls about who should be the 2024 GOP nomination. Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images