A new poll from the free-market group Club For Growth gives Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis a double-digit lead over former President Donald Trump among Granite State GOP primary voters, the latest sign the self-declared “MAGA King” may be losing his grip on the party.
According to the poll, conducted by WPA Intelligence in the days after the Republican Party’s disappointing midterm performance, support for DeSantis rose from 45 percent to 52 percent since August while Trump slipped from 45 to 37 percent.
“Republicans need to be united behind a strong candidate and a platform that shows voters real solutions to beat Biden and the Democrats in 2024,” Club for Growth Action President David McIntosh said. “Our polling shows that Republican primary voters recognize Trump’s insults against Republicans as hollow and counterproductive, and it’s taking a significant toll on his support. This shows Trump could help Republicans by delaying his announcement until after the Georgia runoff.”
The poll found similar results in Iowa, Florida, and Georgia. It was just the latest troubling data point for Trump supporters since last Tuesday’s midterm elections. For example, another poll, taken by YouGov after the elections showed DeSantis leading Trump 41 percent to 39 percent.
Trump-backed candidates in high-profile races lost their bids for U.S. Senate across the country, costing the GOP a majority in what historically should have been a favorable election cycle.
Among the candidates who underperformed were retired Gen. Don Bolduc, who lost to Sen. Maggie Hassan by nine points, and former Trump White House staffer Karoline Leavitt, who lost to Rep. Chris Pappas by eight points.
Taylor Budowich, who heads pro-Trump PAC MAGA, Inc., dismissed the Club For Growth’s findings and issued a warning.
“When they cross Trump, they lose, and that’s not going to change.”
Since his surprise victory in 2016, Trump has enjoyed strong support among New Hampshire Republicans according to multiple polls. But after three losing cycles in a row (four if you count Trump’s loss to Hillary Clinton in the Granite State), several Republicans told NHJournal his support is waning. Several longtime Trump supporters here declined to comment about the poll or their view of the former president when contacted by NHJournal.
GOP political strategist Pat Griffin, however, did not mince words.
“Trump’s act ain’t playing anymore. Strength has always been his most coveted possession, and now he’s dragging his bloody carcass through the forest badly wounded, and with few allies willing to offer him help,” Griffin said. “Tuesday’s announcement is Trump’s high water mark. This campaign will prove to be his Waterloo. He can’t resist the battle, but it’s looking like he cannot win the fight.
“It’s funny that he and his pal Putin find themselves politically isolated in a similar political place,” Griffin quipped.
Trump still has Granite State supporters, of course. Steve MacDonald, Managing Editor and co-owner of the Trump-friendly GraniteGrok.com website said his sense is that local Trump backers blame Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and likely Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for the underperforming midterms. “Their support for Trump is still solid,” he said.
“I think the change in polling is indicative of the mood of the party after an underperforming midterm election,” MacDonald added. “But we need to remember that there are a lot of Trump supporters who are either not in the Republican Party or don’t take polls. And DeSantis, while popular, still leans a bit more mainstream, which will certainly make them leery of dumping Trump without a more thorough vetting outside his comfort zone in Florida.”
But in an op-ed on MacDonald’s website, conservative state Rep. Melissa Blasek offered a scathing analysis.
“Trump lost NH in 2016 and 2020, but we continue to run candidates at the federal level who compete for being the most MAGA. Maybe MAGA doesn’t work in NH. MAGA doesn’t equal conservative. In fact, it doesn’t translate to candidates as being anything other than supportive of Trump, who frankly, has become a distraction and an impediment in NH,” Blasek wrote.
It was a rare occasion where Blasek’s view overlapped with longtime establishment Republican Tom Rath.
“I think all the polling on Trump/DeSantis is way premature, but the takeaway is that there is receptivity in the GOP for a non-Trump candidate,” Rath told NHJournal. “Trump is vulnerable and I think his numbers will continue to decline. DeSantis is a way station for folks jumping off the ship.”
Trump shows no signs of backing down, however. According to reports late Monday, he still intends to make a “major announcement” at Mar-a-Lago Tuesday night. Most political insiders expect him to announce his third presidential campaign.