Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has led Donald Trump in a new survey out of Iowa, following a week where he ventured some of his harshest attacks on the former president and Trump hurled back a series of insults.
The Iowa poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies for Axios, centers on a state that is emerging as a key political battleground for forces in the Republican Party hoping to turn back Trump.
DeSantis leads Trump by eight points, 45 to 37, in a head-to-head matchup, according to the poll.
The news comes after Trump was rallying his base once again with a rally in Waco, where he once again attacked Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg amid signs he could be on the verge of being indicted on matters related to a ‘hush’ agreement with porn star Stormy Daniels. Trump told reporters DeSantis would be working in a cigar store if it weren’t for his endorsement for governor.
DeSantis does not perform as well in a crowded primary, which might come closer to approximating reality a year from now. When former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramswamy are included, Trump and DeSantis are tied in Iowa.
Trump benefitted from a free-for-all in the 2016 Republican primary, and could do so again in a large field that divides his supports.
DeSantis in an interview last week said he didn’t have anything to do with hush payments to a porn star – in a statement Trump’s camp took as an attack. Trump responded with another of his own attacks on ‘Ron DeSanctimonious.’
Trump and DeSantis were tied in New Hampshire in a poll by the same firm, with each at 39 per cent.
DeSantis bested Trump on favorability ratings, with an 81-11 rating in Iowa compared to Trump’s 74-24 among Republican voters. In New Hampshire, DeSantis was at 77-5, while Trump’s rating was 69-29.
The early state surveys come as Trump has expanded his lead over DeSantis in national surveys.
He has become a favorite of a range of Republicans who are seeking an alternative to Trump, but some of his national policy views are still being known – such as his recent comment calling Russia’s war on Ukraine a ‘territorial dispute,’ in a comment he tried to walk back.