Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is a presumed 2024 presidential candidate, despite no official declaration, and every pollster is asking whether he can beat Donald Trump.
Currently polls show that most would prefer to cast a ballot for DeSantis, if it’s between the two — but that’s a big ‘if.’
Ultimately, in November 2024, either DeSantis, Trump, or another Republican candidate will be facing incumbent President Joe Biden, or another Democrat.
Being able to beat Trump (always assuming that he’s still running by then) is only the first step.
That first step could be a doozy, though, if the two presumed contenders face a third primary candidate, according to a meta-analysis.
It seems Trump loses almost every time when voters are asked if they’d cast their primary ballot for him or for DeSantis.
When the poll offers more options, though, it’s DeSantis who fails in almost every poll, suggesting that more of his potential voters are open to other options.
It also indicates that so far, both DeSantis and Trump are preferred over any other Republican challenger. FiveThirtyEight analyst Nathaniel Rakich wrote:
“So far, the 2024 Republican primary seems to be shaping up as a battle between Trump and the not-Trumps; notice how, in our polling averages, Trump’s support was very similar in both head-to-head (43 percent) and multiway (41 percent) matchups, but DeSantis lost a lot more support to other candidates (going from 48 percent to 31 percent).”
There are an endless array of potential game-changers that could disrupt the pattern, from an indictment or a particularly effective campaign (after all, the primary is over a year away) to an unexpected candidate throwing their hat into the ring.
A significant factor, though, is that the question of whether Republicans see a two-way or a multi-way primary isn’t random or out of a candidate’s control — convincing someone else to run as a ‘spoiler’ is well within Trump’s abilities, and he’s even been accused of doing it before.
In 2020, Kanye West seemed to admit that his campaign was a ‘spoiler’ intended to siphon votes from Biden in the general election, Forbes reported, and Trump, while denying that he had placed his thumb on the scale, exhibited delight.
The next question is whether either can beat the incumbent, and current polls seem to suggest Biden has an edge that’s too small to rely on.
A collection of polls in December, by various entities, average out to only a 1.5% lead over Trump, RealClearPolitics shows.
Similarly, if Biden and DeSantis make it to the general election, RaceToTheWH finds that the two polls completed this month result in a tie, and the most recent poll from December gives Biden only a 1% edge over the Florida Governor.