BY T.N. Ashok
Washington, Jun 7 (IANS): Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is closing in on ex President Donald Trump in Iowa where the latter has virtually kicked off his race for the GOP primaries for a 3rd time nomination to run for the White House in 2024.
DeSantis, virtually in the extreme right wing Trumpian mould, but without his legal baggage, is being increasingly favoured by GOP, Republican voters and donors against Trump, much to the ire of the former President.
He is closing the gap with Trump in the early nominating state of Iowa, according to an internal poll released this week.
Conducted by the WPA Intelligence for the DeSantis-supporting Never Back Down super PAC, it showed the 44-year-old Governor in a virtual tie with the 76-year-old Trump in a head-to-head contest. Trump had 45 per cent support, while DeSantis had 43 per cent support and 12 per cent were undecided, media reports said.
Before the Florida Governor formally entered the presidential race, as early as May, Trump mustered 53 per cent support, while DeSantis was on 39 per cent and 8 per cent were undecided. But a lot has changed since then as July approaches.
DeSantis has also recovered ground on Trump in an internal election. Trump had 39 per cent support, DeSantis had 29 per cent, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) had 7 per cent and former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley had 6 per cent support.
Trump's former Vice President Mike Pence and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy share 4 per cent support, while the remaining contenders could not even crack 1 per cent.
As early as May, the same survey showed Trump had 48 per cent support, DeSantis had 24 per cent and Nikki Haley had 10 per cent support, with no other candidate topping double figures.
"The Republican presidential caucus is a two-person race between Governor Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump," wrote WPA CEO Chris Wilson and managing director Conor Maguire, both advisers to Never Back Down.
DeSantis' vote share has grown quite significantly in the last one month despite heavy artillery unleashed on him by Trump and the media that supports him.
"Despite heavy media attacks against Governor DeSantis, along with some rallying to Donald Trump following the New York indictment, DeSantis' ballot share has grown in the past month while no other candidate exceeds single digits," The New York Post, once a trusted ally of Trump owned by media baron Rupert Murdoch, said after dumping the former President.
The survey by WPA Intelligence for the DeSantis-supporting Never Back Down super PAC showed DeSantis in a virtual tie with Trump in a head-to-head contest as Trump had 45 per cent support and DeSantis with 43 per cent support. The poll also found that three-quarters of likely Iowa GOP caucus-goers had a favorable view of DeSantis, while just 17% had an unfavourable view, the post added.
The Florida Governor finds favour more with men at 80 per cent than women (79 per cent) who had a bare minimum college degree, while his favourability scores among Iowans without college degrees stood at 69 per cent.
The survey also showed DeSantis going past Trump 46 per cent to 45 per cent among self-proclaimed Christian conservatives, who, Wilson and Maguire said, make up nearly half the Iowa Republican electorate, reports said.
The poll was released right after DeSantis and his wife Casey kicked off his campaign last week with a whirlwind tour of Iowa and the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Trump also visited Iowa last week, facing a town hall meeting with Shawn Hannity of Fox TV and held a sizable lead over DeSantis in public polling of the Hawkeye State. The RealClearPolitics polling average in Iowa shows the former president on 47.7 per cent, DeSantis at 25.3 per cent, Haley on 5.3 per cent, Pence on 3.7 per cent, and Ramaswamy rounding out the top five at 2.3 per cent.
The 45th President's lead over his competitors is reportedly even wider among national Republican voters. The RealClearPolitics average shows Trump on 53.2 per cent, DeSantis on 22.4 per cent, Haley on 4.4 per cent, Pence on 3.8 per cent, and Ramaswamy again in fifth averaging 2.6 per cent support.
WPA Intelligence surveyed 655 likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers.