DeSantis Backers Flood the Zone With Polls Showing He’s More Electable Than Trump Against Biden
Associates of Trump and Biden say it’s far too early to take any of these numbers seriously.
Ron DeSantis is starting to publicly make his case to Republicans that he’s a better opponent against President Joe Biden than Donald Trump.
And DeSantis’ backers are circulating early polling numbers in an attempt to prove that DeSantis is right, according to two memos produced by the GOP polling firm Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of a pro-DeSantis committee called the Citizens Awareness Project. The memos analyzed battleground-state polling produced by the firm and by independent pollsters to determine who could win the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House, and concluded that DeSantis was more likely to defeat Biden in a general election.
In one of the memos, Biden led Trump 318-218 in the Electoral College, while DeSantis was only behind Biden by 269-265 electoral votes. That analysis was based on independent public polls in Georgia, Arizona and Nevada and polling from Public Opinion Strategies in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Those six swing states are the most crucial in the nation, and Biden won them all in 2020 to secure his election.
In the other polling memo of the surveys produced by Public Opinion Strategies, Biden led Trump 303-219 but DeSantis edged Biden 263-212. The difference in that particular scenario was that the governor was favored to win Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona and Nebraska’s Second Congressional District, and he makes these Biden states a tossup: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, Wisconsin and Nevada. The polling indicates that Trump would lose all these except for North Carolina, which is rated a toss-up in a Trump-Biden matchup.
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In a Thursday call with donors, DeSantis for the first time publicly made the argument that he’s more electable based on the data.
“You have basically three people at this point that are credible in this whole thing: Biden, Trump and me,” DeSantis told donors to another pro-DeSantis committee, called Never Back Down, according to the New York Times. “Of those three, two have a chance to get elected president — Biden and me, based on all the data in the swing states, which is not great for the former president and probably insurmountable because people aren’t going to change their view of him.”
Pollsters affiliated with both Trump and Biden don’t dispute the polling but they disagree with the conclusion, saying it’s far too early to begin forecasting a general election – in part because fewer voters know who DeSantis is now. If he’s the nominee, they say, DeSantis’ deeply conservative record will become clear and his popularity will fall with general election voters.
“How many of those voters know about Ron’s positions on signing a six-week abortion ban, eliminating concealed carry [permits for gun owners] or passing laws that allow book-banking?” asked Tony Fabrizio, a pollster for the pro-Trump political committee MAGA Inc. “Which candidate will voters learn more about? So if DeSantis is running even with Donald Trump before he’s defined, how will he look after?”
Last month, Chris Wilson, a pollster for the Never Back Down super PAC trolled Fabrizio on Twitter by pointing to a national poll partly conducted by Fabrizio that showed DeSantis led Biden by 3 percentage points in a hypothetical matchup nationwide matchup while Trump trailed Biden by the same margin.
Fabrizio replied by noting that Trump was viewed more favorably than DeSantis by Republican voters and was leading him in a head-to-head matchup.
Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who has worked with Biden’s political operation, said voters generally see governors as moderate figures who compromise to get things done.
But DeSantis, she said, went so far right with abortion and limitations on LGBT rights and even fighting Disney that swing and independent voters won’t like what they see when his record is exposed to a national audience.
“What’s notable for Ron DeSantis is that, in his abject terror to win the primary, he’s jeopardizing his chances in a general election,” Lake said.
Gene Ulm, one of the pollsters who helped author the memos, said DeSantis’s record matches up well against Biden, and the contrast with Trump is clear.
“People keep saying, ‘oh, he’ll be just as unpopular as Trump,’ and I say: only if he’s been impeached twice, paid off a porn star and been found liable for sexual assault,” Ulm said. “The fact is Republicans everywhere worry that Trump is not electable for good reason.”
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