- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2023

Former President Donald Trump remains the front-runner of the emerging GOP presidential primary field and maintains a double-digit lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who hasn’t launched a 2024 campaign but is considered the ex-president’s main rival, according to a new poll.

The Quinnipiac University Poll found 46% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters prefer Mr. Trump compared to 32% for Mr. DeSantis and 5% for former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who announced her bid in mid-February. Other potential candidates were listed but did not get much support, with Vice President Mike Pence leading the list at 3%.

Pollsters said Mr. Trump is widening his gap over Mr. DeSantis compared to a February poll in which Mr. Trump received 42% and Mr. DeSantis received 36%, although the field is still taking shape.

The new poll said Mr. Trump leads Mr. DeSantis, 51%-40%, in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup.

“DeSantis might be the buzz in the GOP conversation, but for now Trump is seeing no erosion and, in fact, enjoys a bump in his lead in the Republican primary,” Quinnipiac University Poll analyst Tim Malloy said.

Mr. Trump is starting to unload on the Florida governor, dubbing him “Ron DeSanctimonious” and characterizing him as a threat to entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security and federal ethanol support for Iowa farmers.

Mr. DeSantis has avoided direct confrontation with Mr. Trump as he ponders his next steps, though he has alluded to contrasts.

The governor said his administration manages to avoid leaks and other palace intrigues, and he pointed to his easy reelection in November. Many of Mr. Trump’s hand-picked candidates fell short in the midterm election cycle.

The Quinnipiac poll says Mr. DeSantis fares better in a matchup with President Biden.

Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump, 49%-45%, among all registered voters in a hypothetical matchup. The president is in a virtual dead heat with Mr. DeSantis, leading the governor 47%-46%, according to Quinnipiac.

The survey was conducted from March 9-13 among 1,795 U.S. adults, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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