Republican voters have nearly equal favorable views of former President Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis among Iowa voters, according to a highly anticipated public opinion survey in the state whose caucuses lead off the GOP presidential nominating calendar.
Eighty percent of Republicans questioned in a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll released early Friday said they have a very or mostly favorable view of Trump, with 75% saying the same thing about DeSantis, who has seen his standing with conservatives nationwide soar the past three years.
However, the poll highlighted that the former president’s favorable ratings in Iowa have steadily declined since peaking a year and a half ago.
“And the percentage of Iowa Republicans who say they would ‘definitely’ vote for him if he were the nominee in 2024 has plummeted by more than 20 percentage points since June 2021,” the newspaper noted.
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Trump launched his third presidential campaign in November, with former two-term South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley declaring her candidacy last month, becoming the first major Republican to join the former president in the race for the GOP nomination.
Haley, who served as ambassador to the United Nations during the Trump administration, stands at 53% very or mostly favorable in the survey. Four in 10 questioned in the poll did not know enough about Haley to form an opinion.
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Political pundits expect DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence to launch White House campaigns later this year, but both currently remain on the 2024 sidelines. Two-thirds of GOP respondents said they had a very or mostly favorable view of the former vice president.
The poll’s release comes as DeSantis arrives in Iowa for his first ever visit, and just three days before Trump returns to the Hawkeye State for the first time this election cycle. Haley is also in Iowa on Friday, wrapping up a three-day campaign swing. Pence, who has made numerous stops in the state since the end of the Trump administration over two years ago, was in Iowa last month.
DeSantis’ trip will be his first this cycle to any of the early voting states in the GOP primary and caucus schedule. He will make stops in Des Moines and Davenport, where he will be joined by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa. He will also meet with GOP state lawmakers at the capitol in Des Moines.
His trip to Iowa, and a stop Saturday in Las Vegas — Nevada holds the fourth contest in the Republican primary and caucus schedule — are being organized by “And to the Republic,” a recently-formed public advocacy group that planned the governor’s recent stops in New York City, and in suburban Philadelphia and Chicago, to showcase is law enforcement support.
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“I know there’s a lot of pent-up demand for DeSantis in Iowa, like I think there is in a lot of other states,” longtime Republican consultant David Kochel told Fox News.
Kochel, a veteran of numerous GOP presidential campaigns in Iowa and nationally, said “I think Iowans are going to keep their minds up and keep their powder dry until they see these candidates and I think DeSantis is top on the list of who they want to see and hear from.”
DeSantis saw his popularity soar among conservatives across the country over the past three years due to his forceful pushback against coronavirus pandemic restrictions and his aggressive actions as a culture warrior going after media, corporations and teachers’ unions. The governor won an overwhelming 19-point gubernatorial re-election victory in November. In recent speeches, he has been spotlighting that his policy victories in Florida can serve as a roadmap for the entire nation.
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Sources in DeSantis’ wider orbit have said any presidential campaign launch would come in the late spring or early summer, after the end of the current legislative session. However, the governor’s latest travel itinerary — stops in New Hampshire and South Carolina, which hold the second and third contests in the GOP presidential nominating calendar, are likely in the coming weeks — are sparking more speculation about an increasingly probable White House run.
Pointing to strong Republican performances in November in Florida and Iowa amid an overall poor showing for the GOP, Kochel said “DeSantis has a real opportunity to show how the red wave that happened in Iowa and happened in Florida was based on a similar governing philosophy with Gov. Reynolds, who also won a close election in 2018 and a landslide in 2022.”
“I think he’s got a lot to talk about in Iowa that Iowans will find very familiar in terms of what he’s done and delivered and what our governor in Iowa has been doing as well and one of the reasons why she’s so popular,” he added.
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The trip to Iowa comes days after the start of Florida’s legislative session, where DeSantis aims to chalk up more conservative victories, thanks in part to a newly elected GOP supermajority in Tallahassee. It comes as he travels across the country highlighting his “Florida blueprint” and promoting his newly released memoir, “The Courage to Be Free.”
When asked about his 2024 timeline last week on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends,” DeSantis pointed to the upcoming legislative session and his book tour and said, “Those are what we’re going to be doing over these next few months. As we get beyond that, then we can decide from there.”
Trump returns to Iowa on Monday. The former president came in a close second in the 2016 Iowa GOP presidential caucuses to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the conservative firebrand who was the runner-up to Trump in the nomination race. The former president carried Iowa — a one-time general election battleground state — by nine points in his 2016 White House victory and by eight points in his 2020 re-election defeat.
The former president’s scheduled to deliver political and policy remarks, with a focus on education, at an event in Davenport’s Adler Theater.
Pointing to the visits by DeSantis, Trump, and Haley, Iowa Democratic Party chair Rita Hart said on Thursday that “I don’t know who’s going to come out of this GOP primary, but the bottom line is that Iowans — and Americans — cannot afford the extreme agenda that these folks are peddling.”
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