We haven’t even had the 2022 election yet and talk of 2024 is already heating up. Naturally, Donald Trump remains at the top of the conversation on the Republican side, but Ron DeSantis has become nearly as talked about as a probable challenger.
The latter has burst onto the scene the last two years as a no-nonsense, fighter of a governor who also has a knack for making the liberal press look ridiculous. Those are skills that GOP voters love, and they’ve earned DeSantis high marks nationally from the Republican base. That he’s also become the leader in the culture wars has only caused his star to rise further.
Just how far has he risen? The first primary poll out of New Hampshire delivered a stunning result on Wednesday, showing DeSantis leading Donald Trump and beating Joe Biden in a general election matchup. Trump is losing by seven points to Biden in the same poll.
President (New Hampshire)
DeSantis (R) 39%
Trump Sr. (R) 37%
Pence (R) 9%
Haley (R) 6%
Cruz (R) 1%
Noem (R) 1%
Pompeo (R) 1%
6/16-6/20 by University of New Hampshire (B-)
Arf! Can I have a treat?
Poll #156901 #ElectionTwitter
— Stella (@stella2020woof) June 22, 2022
DeSantis' name recognition and support has absolutely exploded over the last year. I'm guessing liberal media hasn't yet learned how to avoid elevating the Republicans they dislike most. pic.twitter.com/f3V6kyDemo
— Yesh Ginsburg (@yesh222) June 22, 2022
Now, before anyone gets too up in arms, understand it’s June 2022. These types of polls are not predictive. They can simply show us trends and shifts in the current environment. Whether these results hold all the way until the primaries start in 2024 is not something anyone can know. In other words, whether you are more in the Trump camp or the DeSantis camp regarding a hypothetical matchup, there’s no reason to feel threatened by these results.
The poll is a data point worth talking about, though. If DeSantis does go on to win New Hampshire, the first primary, he’s almost certainly going to win Iowa, which has a caucus system that doesn’t favor Trump. And if DeSantis takes the first two primaries, all bets are off heading into the next stretch. Prior national polling will not matter at that point because inevitability and momentum mean everything in a presidential primary fight, something Trump himself showed in 2016. That’s not to say DeSantis would have things wrapped up, but he’d be in the driver’s seat.
With that said, I’ve heard the arguments that DeSantis won’t run if Trump does. Let’s just say I don’t buy them one bit. The Florida governor is termed out in 2026, has raised gobs of money (far more than needed for his reelection bid), and has gone out of his way to make himself a national figure. GOP donors are lining up behind him already, and there’s just no way he’s going to wait around until 2028. Further, as past cycles have shown, there’s no risk in coming in second place in a primary. In fact, it typically sets that person up as the frontrunner the next go around.
That leads me to a final question, which is how long does Trump hold his fire? He’s already had his personal pollster release a survey showing Charlie Crist, the likely Democrat nominee for Florida governor, beating Ron DeSantis by one point. That was a result so far away from other polls as to be laughable, and it feels like the tension is building a bit.
Still, I hope both men can keep from going weapons hot until it’s actually time to have a primary fight. Starting the fireworks too early would be a profound mistake for everyone involved. Lastly, when things do finally touch off, I hope Republican voters understand there’s no reason to destroy each other in the process. A competitive race will only help the eventual GOP nominee. Let things play out and root for who you want to root for, knowing that whoever the victor is will be far preferable to the corpse of Joe Biden or Kamala Harris.