Donald Trump's popularity increases over Ron DeSantis for 2024 presidential race

Crowded field of Republican hopefuls remains a two-horse race — for now

Will Donald Trump (L) and Ron DeSantis go head-to-head? Reuters
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Donald Trump is seeing a bump in popularity among Republicans, according to latest polls, with one of the surveys showing the former US president gaining ground over Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, his putative main rival for a 2024 White House run.

Mr Trump announced in November that he was seeking a second term in office, a move met with dismay by several conservative leaders because the Republican Party has fared poorly in many key races since the former president's general election victory in 2016.

The latest Emerson College Polling national survey shows Mr Trump's backing at 55 per cent, compared to 25 per cent for Mr DeSantis. Nikki Haley, who last month announced her candidacy for 2024, is at 5 per cent, while former vice president Mike Pence was supported by 8 per cent.

While Mr Trump's share of support remained steady from January, the poll finds that Mr DeSantis slipped four points.

Another poll by Yahoo News/YouGov found Mr Trump's popularity growing, with him taking the lead by eight points in a hypothetical contest against Mr DeSantis for the Republican nomination. That represents a net swing in Mr Trump's favour of 12 points since the start of last month.

Mr DeSantis has yet to declare he is running for president but is widely expected to do so. He has recently been courting prospective voters in states that will hold the Republican Party's initial presidential primaries next year.

A third poll by Echelon Insights had Mr Trump at 46 per cent approval from Republican respondents, compared to 31 per cent for Mr DeSantis.

Whether Mr Trump can translate his popularity among the Republican base into an election-winning formula is an open question, and senior party members have been notably quiet when it comes to endorsing him.

Mr Trump's party lost control of the House of Representatives in 2018, the Senate and the White House in 2020, and fared worse than anticipated in midterms in November.

"Trump came out of the midterms looking like a loser," Clifford Young, president of US public affairs at Ipsos, told The National.

"His brand of candidate did not do well. But this has faded as we put more distance between now and the midterms."

Mr Young added that a lot will change between now and next year.

"There is a lot of noise in the polls, we are very far out from the primaries and people aren't paying attention yet."

The Emerson poll found that 71 per cent of Democratic respondents think President Joe Biden should run again in 2024.

Mr Biden, 80, has not declared his intention and many voters are concerned about his age, but first lady Jill Biden said her husband was all but sure to seek a second term.

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Although Mr Biden's popularity has grown among Democrats, the Emerson poll puts him behind Mr Trump if the 2024 election were to be held today, with the former president garnering 46 per cent to Mr Biden's 42 per cent.

Mr Trump's resurgence in the polls in February came as several stories unfolded in the US and beyond, including the shooting down of what the US said was a Chinese spying balloon, the anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and a fireball train crash in East Palestine, Ohio, in which dangerous chemicals were spilt into the environment.

All of the stories have been heavily politicised, and Mr Trump made a visit to East Palestine that was well received by residents. Mr Biden and Mr DeSantis have not visited.

The former president took to Truth Social, his own social media platform, to tout the latest polls and repeat his debunked claims that he won the 2020 election against Mr Biden, who beat Mr Trump by some seven million votes.

"We must take back the White House in 2024," he wrote in block capitals.

Much like in 2015-16, the contest to secure the Republican Party's nomination is becoming a crowded field. Back then, Mr Trump was able to cut through all controversies and leave better-established rivals in the dust.

Updated: March 01, 2023, 6:35 PM