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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaking at the 2021 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Tampa Convention Center, July 18, 2021. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

DeSantis Leads Trump In Early CA 2024 Presidential Election Poll

Over 50% of Californians not enthused by Biden, Harris presidential runs next year

By Evan Symon, February 24, 2023 12:29 pm

According to a new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) poll released on Thursday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is currently leading former President Donald Trump in support for the 2024 Republican primary in California. The poll also found 50% of Californians are not enthused about either President Joe Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris running for reelection next year.

Last year, polls in California found that Trump had a large lead over other candidates in being chosen as a nominee. A CPAC poll among likely Republican voters in July found that 69% were in favor of Trump while only 24% were in favor of DeSantis, while a similar IGS poll in August had Trump up over DeSantis 38%-27%. However, concerns over Trumps viability in 2024 and DeSantis’ rising popularity since late 2022 led to popularity flips in several states across the U.S. according to newer polls. This trend continued in California on Friday, with the IGS poll finding that DeSantis is now the preferred candidate in California for the GOP.

In the February 2023 poll, Governor DeSantis came in with 37% of the vote, with former President Trump now only getting 29%. Other candidates remained distant, with former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley receiving 7%, and former Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney getting 4%.

For DeSantis, big gains among those identifying as strongly or somewhat conservative, as well as drawing in former Trump voters, proved critical for the change in popularity. Last year 55% of strongly conservative voters and and 36% of somewhat conservative voters were for Trump, as compared to 29% and 32% respectively for DeSantis. But the poll released on Friday found that only 45% of strongly conservative voters and 17% of somewhat conservative voters were still in favor of Trump, with DeSantis getting a respective 38% and 51% in comparison. Similarly Trump had 44% of those voting for him in 2020 willing to support him again in last years poll, with DeSantis only being able to attract 30%. In February, those number flipped, with Trump now only getting 31% of those voters and 42% now in favor of DeSantis.

On the Democratic side, both Biden and Harris continued to dip down in popularity for potential 2024 runs for the White House. Polls for the Democrats in California have been a bit more all over the place. Last year, some polls had Governor Gavin Newsom as the man to beat in 2024 before his announcement in November that he wouldn’t be running. Conversely, others had Harris pegged as the Democrats candidate in 2024. Biden’s popularity as the Democratic candidate also swung all over the place, from him being the preferred candidate in some polls, to having 61% of Californians opposing another run in others.

Friday’s poll found that neither Biden or Harris are particularly liked as the Democratic candidate. While Biden has improved from the 61% opposing him from last year, likely due to his surprise Ukraine visit being received positively by many, it still remains very low with 57% opposing and only 37% being in favor. Harris didn’t fare well either, with 41% of voters saying that they were not enthused by a 2024 run by the VP and 18% not too enthused.

DeSantis now leading Trump

“By a five-to-three margin Californians would prefer that Biden not run for re-election next year,” said IGS Director Mark DiCamillo on Friday. “While a 57% majority of Democrats are supportive, Republicans are nearly unanimous in opposing a Biden reelection bid 87% to 8%. And, they are joined by the state’s No Party Preference voters, who oppose the president seeking another term in 2024 nearly two to one.

“Yet, there is little enthusiasm among California voters for home state Vice President Kamala Harris to run as a possible presidential candidate next year were Biden to decide not to run. Only 16% say they would be very enthusiastic about such a run, while just 21% would be somewhat enthusiastic. This compares to a 59% majority who say they would not be enthusiastic about a Harris presidential candidacy in 2024 in this scenario.

“The poll also finds that California Republicans appear to be warming to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as a possible GOP presidential nominee. DeSantis now leads the Republican field with 37% support out of a list of eleven possible candidates. Former President Donald Trump places second with 29%. This is a reversal from August when GOP voters in this state preferred Trump over DeSantis 38% to 27%. None of the other nine other Republicans listed in the current poll receive more than 6% support.

“Despite DeSantis’s growing popularity among Republicans, when paired against Biden in a 2024 general election match-up among the overall electorate, he trails the President by 23 points. Trump fairs even worse trailing Biden by 30 points.”

Other experts noted that while California will still in all likelihood vote Democratic in 2024, the changes in support could help influence who the candidates could be next year.

“You can bet a lot of people are paying attention to California polls like this,” explained Laura Chaffee, an elections analyst in Washington, DC, to the Globe on Friday. “For the Democrats, California is one of the best indicators of party popularity. So if Biden or Harris aren’t doing so well, like this poll shows, then it can be a warning sign for whom a viable candidate could be.”

“For the GOP, winning over voters in California is also crucial, as it is a highly diverse state and it has a huge registered-GOP population. If you can win over Californians, especially across the board on key demographics like gender and race, then it can prove a candidate can have widespread appeal and maybe even win over some of those moderates in other states. California is still out of reach for 2024, but they can still help find the best candidate to have that much more of an edge in battle ground states like Florida and Georgia, as well as expand into reddening states in the Midwest.”

For Californian presidential polls are expected to be conducted soon as more candidates enter the 2024 race early.

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