The former president has struggled in a series of polls showing hypothetical head-to-head matchups. But a new survey suggests he might find strength in a crowded primary field.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would best former President Donald Trump in a hypothetical one-on-one Republican primary, but Trump would narrowly win a plurality in a multi-candidate field, according to a new poll from the Club for Growth, an influential conservative group that has distanced itself from the former president.
DeSantis beats Trump by 9 points in a head-to-head matchup, with a significant 11% of voters undecided, according to the poll, which was conducted in the second half of January by WPA Intelligence, a conservative polling group.
But in a field of seven GOP candidates, including those rumored to be considering a White House run – such as former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley – Trump ekes out a plurality, netting 37% of voters to Desantis’ 34%, with Pence in a distant third at 7%, according to the poll. A significant 14% of voters remain undecided in that scenario.
The poll is a mixed snapshot for the former president, who is as of now the only GOP candidate to officially announce a 2024 bid – though Haley is expected to make an announcement next week. It illustrates both the challenges for Trump, who may likely face a serious contender in DeSantis, as well as the power of his base, which may prove crucial in a larger field that could split the non-Trump vote.
It’s also a notable publication from the Club for Growth, an economic-focused group that has publicly peeled away from Trump in the last year, after a falling out. In November, the group posted a poll showing DeSantis beating Trump in several key primary states on the day before he made his anticipated announcement speech. The group has also invited a handful of possible Republican presidential candidates to a retreat next month, conspicuously leaving Trump off the guest list.
David McIntosh, the group’s president, told reporters Monday that the GOP’s chances of re-taking the White House would be diminished if Trump were the nominee.
“The party should be open to another candidate,” McIntosh said, according to The New York Times.
In a head-to-head matchup with DeSantis, Trump wins the support of more conservative voters and those who prioritize defense issues – while the governor beats Trump among those who identify as somewhat conservative or moderate/liberal voters and those who prioritize social issues.
The picture is more complicated in a multi-candidate field, however. Trump still wins a plurality among conservative voters, but he also wins the field among moderate or liberal voters, because that electorate’s support is more widely split among other candidates.