In a poll regarding potential Republican nominees for president in 2024, the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, led Donald Trump by a whopping 23 points.
Republican and Republican-leaning voters dealt the significant blow to the former president’s ego in a survey carried out by USA Today and Suffolk University and released on Tuesday.
Worse was to come for Trump on Wednesday, with the release of a Wall Street Journal survey which gave DeSantis a 14-point lead, 52%-38%, in a hypothetical primary matchup, and a CNN poll that said 62% of Republicans wanted their party to nominate someone else in 2024.
In messages seen by the Guardian, one veteran Trump insider said: “He IS in trouble.”
Florida governor takes enormous lead over embattled ex-president TRUMP for 2024 race
David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, told USA Today: “Republicans and conservative independents increasingly want Trumpism without Trump.”
That much has been clear in the rise of DeSantis, a former US military lawyerand hard-right congressman who has pursued distinctly Trumpist hardline and theatrically cruel policies as governor of Florida, in particular on immigration and education.
On Tuesday, DeSantis continued to court the Republican base, saying he would petition the Florida supreme court to convene a grand jury to investigate “any and all wrongdoing” with respect to Covid-19 vaccines – despite more than 83,000 people having died from Covid in his state.
Last month, the governor marked a crushing re-election victory with a confident speech, declaring his state “where woke goes to die” to chants of “two more years”.
Trump declared his third consecutive run for the Republican nomination shortly after those midterm elections.
But he has shown precious little momentum, particularly after elections in which most of his endorsed candidates for key state posts and in Congress went down to defeat, contributing to a disappointing Republican performance.
In Washington on Tuesday the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, saidTrump had cost the party in key seats, backing primary candidates who proved unable to win over voters in the midterms.
“We ended up having a candidate quality test,” McConnell told reporters at the Capitol. “Look at Arizona. Look at New Hampshire. And the challenging situation in Georgia, as well.
“Our ability to control the primary outcome was quite limited in 22 because the support of the former president proved to be very decisive in these primaries.”
Trump is also in extensive legal jeopardy, over his attempted election subversion, the retention of White House records and his business affairs. On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that the former president’s company, the Trump Organization, was found in criminal contempt during a secret trial during a tax fraud investigation in 2021.
USA Today said its poll showed that among Republican and Republican-leaning voters, enthusiasm for another Trump run is receding.
“In July, 60% of Republicans wanted Trump to run again. In October, that number had dipped to 56%. Now it has fallen to 47%, an almost-even split with the 45% who don’t want him to run for a third time.”
Biden is 80, Trump 76. Biden has said he will decide on whether to run again over the Christmas holidays.
The new USA Today poll put DeSantis, 44, ahead of Biden in a notional match-up, 47%-43%. CNN found that just as 62% of Republicans wanted someone other than Trump, 59% of Democrats said Biden should not run again.
Paleologos sounded a familiar note of caution, saying a big primary field could divide Republican opposition to Trump and hand him the nomination again.
“Add in a number of other Republican presidential candidates who would divide the anti-Trump vote and you have a recipe for a repeat of the 2016 Republican caucuses and primaries, when Trump outlasted the rest of the divided field.”
Another likely candidate, Mike Pence, is edging closer to announcing a run.
Speaking in New Hampshire, an early voting state, on Tuesday, the former vice-president told Fox News the reception accorded his recent memoir “has been a great source of encouragement as we think about the way forward and what our calling might be in the future”.
Pence said he and his wife, Karen, would make a decision on whether to mount a run next year, after “prayerful consideration” over the holiday period.
“We’ll continue to travel, we’ll continue to listen,” he said