Trump in trouble: Republican support for his 2024 bid falls amid political, legal setbacks

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Republican support for Donald Trump's presidential bid in 2024 has cratered, an exclusive USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds, as the former president is beleaguered by midterm losses and courtroom setbacks.

By 2-1, GOP and GOP-leaning voters now say they want Trump's policies but a different standard-bearer to carry them. While 31% want the former president to run, 61% prefer some other Republican nominee who would continue the policies Trump has pursued.

They have a name in mind: Two-thirds of Republicans and those inclined to vote Republican want Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to run for president. By double digits, 56% to 33%, they prefer DeSantis over Trump.

"Republicans and conservative independents increasingly want Trumpism without Trump," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.

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The findings are a red flag for Trump, whose core support has held remarkably solid through firestorms over his personal behavior, his provocative rhetoric, and his most controversial actions in the White House. But he has become increasingly embattled over his role in fueling the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol, his alleged mishandling of sensitive documents when he left the White House, and investigations into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Some Republican strategists blame Trump and his influence for the GOP's failure to win control of the Senate in November. Candidates he helped recruit and support in Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania lost races that independent analysts thought might have been won by more traditional candidates.

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The poll of 1,000 registered voters, taken by landline and cellphone Wednesday through Sunday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The sample of 374 Republicans and independents who lean to the Republican Party has an error margin of 5.1 points.

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Former President Donald Trump after announcing a third run for president at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on Nov. 15.
Former President Donald Trump after announcing a third run for president at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on Nov. 15.

Biden's lead widens over Trump in a head-to-head race

Enthusiasm for Trump's third bid for the White House within the GOP has significantly ebbed in recent months, the USA TODAY/Suffolk survey finds.

In July, 60% of Republicans wanted Trump to run again. In October, that number had dipped to 56%. Now it has fallen to 47%, an almost-even split with the 45% who don't want him to run for a third time.

The polls taken in July and December were of registered voters. The poll in October was of likely midterm voters.

Trump is viewed less favorably by his partisans as well. The percentage of Republicans who see him favorably has dropped from 75% in October to 64% in December. His unfavorable rating has risen to 23% from 18%.

Among all voters, Trump has fallen further behind President Joe Biden in a hypothetical head-to-head rematch. Now, Biden would win a general election matchup by 47% to 40%. (Because of the effects of rounding, Biden's margin is a bit wider than that indicates, at 7.8 points.) In October, Biden also led but by a narrower margin, 46%-42%.

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Biden sees slippage among Democrats as DeSantis rides high in the GOP

Biden hasn't seen his political standing get much worse, but it also hasn't gotten much better.

Since October, his favorable rating has ticked up a percentage point, to 46%, and his unfavorable rating is down a point, to 50%. But support among Democrats for him to seek a second term has declined, to 40% from 45%. Among all voters, just 23% want him to run again.

While Biden now leads Trump, he trails DeSantis in a head-to-head race, with DeSantis at 47% and Biden at 43%.

The Florida governor, who last month sailed to a second term in the Sunshine State, has significant standing nationwide. Two-thirds of Republican and Republican-leaning voters, 65%, want him to run for president in 2024. Just 24% hope he doesn't.

DeSantis' success may depend on having a one-on-one contest with Trump, Paleologos cautioned. "Add in a number of other Republican presidential candidates who would divide the anti-Trump vote and you have a recipe for a repeat of the 2016 Republican caucuses and primaries," he said, "when Trump outlasted the rest of the divided field."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump support in GOP craters for presidential 2024 race: poll