Former President Donald Trump unloaded Thursday on polling showing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis beating him in a head-to-head matchup for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
“Great polling has just come out on me versus various others, including [President Joe] Biden, but I still have to put up with the same old ‘stuff’ from The Wall Street Journal, which has lost an incalculable amount of influence over the years, and Fox News, whose polls on me have been seriously WRONG from the day I came down the escalator in Trump Tower” to announce his first run, Trump said on the Truth Social media platform.
DeSantis led Trump 52 percent to 38 percent in the Wall Street Journal survey, which was released Wednesday. Fox News reported on the Wall Street Journal poll and a USA Today/Suffolk University poll that showed DeSantis up 56 percent to 33 percent over Trump in a one-on-one test.
DeSantis, who is not expected to announce whether he will run until after Florida’s legislative session in the spring or summer, has quickly emerged as the leading alternative to the former president among GOP primary voters. In November, he won re-election by nearly 20 points over Democratic former Gov. Charlie Crist, and he is clearly the rival about whom Trump is most concerned.
“DeSantis is rising and Trump is increasingly scared of being left for dead by the Republican Party,” said Dan Eberhart, a GOP donor who is backing the Florida governor. “Trump is not going to let DeSantis grab his throne without a fight. We are on the eve of nothing less than a civil war in the Republican Party.”
Trump allies caution that primaries are more than a year away, noting that other polls show Trump in a much stronger position and that all of the surveys are a snapshot in time.
“For every bad poll, there’s a good poll,” said one person close to Trump, who is the only candidate in the race for the time being.
A DeSantis adviser declined to comment for this story.
The hypothetical head-to-head matchups assume that Trump and DeSantis are the only candidates who receive support from GOP primary voters. But there is a long list of Republican figures who are looking at potential bids, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
Trump is right that some surveys show him in good standing, particularly if the field is crowded. A Politico/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday placed him at 45 percent, compared to 30 percent for DeSantis, 7 percent for Pence and the remainder split among a dozen other candidates.
One GOP strategist who worked on Trump’s 2020 campaign likened DeSantis’ early lead to the fast-disappearing edge that then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry had over the GOP field early in the 2012 primary race. DeSantis is in “a very good place” right now, the strategist said, but may not have the luxury of waiting to “harness that energy.”
Citing Trump’s lust for brutal political combat, the strategist added that it remains to be seen whether DeSantis can withstand an onslaught from the former president.
“The thing about DeSantis is he hasn’t been punched,” the strategist said.
Jonathan Allen is a senior national politics reporter for NBC News, based in Washington.