Donald Trump is crushing his Republican rivals, according to a new poll (and really according to all of the recent polls). But that isn’t enough for Trump, who spent the weekend complaining that anyone was daring to run against him at all.
The New York Times/Siena poll finds Trump with 54% support in the Republican presidential primary. He’s trailed, distantly, by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at 17%. No other candidate gets more than 3%. This isn’t an outlier: The result is very close to where Trump and DeSantis stand in the FiveThirtyEight polling average, which puts Trump at 52.4% and DeSantis at 15.5%, though some of the lower-tier candidates exceed 3% on the polling average.
But Trump isn’t content with dominating the field. He wants them gone. At a Saturday night rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, Trump insisted, “Every dollar spent attacking me by Republicans is a dollar given straight to the Biden campaign,” and accused his rivals of “wasting hundreds of millions of dollars that Republicans should be using to build a massive vote-gathering operation.” Few of the Republican candidates are attacking Trump in any meaningful way, let alone spending big to do it. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the only candidate aggressively attacking Trump, raised less than $1.7 million in the second quarter of the year. (He wasn’t in the race until late in that period.) He’s sure not spending hundreds of millions of dollars. A super PAC backing Christie is running an ad that could be getting under Trump’s skin, asking, “Are you a chicken or just a loser?” But again, this is not hundreds of millions of dollars.
No, a reference to hundreds of millions of dollars in the Republican primary is a reference to DeSantis, who outraised Trump in the second quarter and whose super PAC has been full of big talk about how much it was going to spend to win this race. Unfortunately for DeSantis, the winning part has not yet shown up in polls.
The New York Times/Siena poll has lots of bad news for DeSantis, who isn’t just trailing Trump by 37 points—he’s trailing Trump with no real upsides showing up. DeSantis is losing every significant group of Republican primary voters: men, women, young, old, moderate, conservative, urban, suburban, rural, college degree, no college degree. Not that any of the other candidates are drawing many voters, but if you took them out, Trump would double DeSantis’ percentage in a head to head, 62% to 31%.
The very small upside for DeSantis is that Republican primary voters like him fine. He has a 66% favorable rating, not too far behind Trump’s 76%. But they don’t love him: Just 25% have a very favorable view of him compared with 43% who have a very favorable view of Trump. And the definition of “very favorable” seems to be applied a little differently. In a head-to-head poll, Trump would get 92% support from people who have a very favorable opinion of him, while DeSantis would get just 49% support from people who have a very favorable opinion of him. When “very favorable” means “it’s a toss-up if I’d choose him or Trump,” it’s not good news for DeSantis.
In interviews with some poll respondents, this tepid view of DeSantis showed up again and again. “DeSantis, I have high hopes. But as long as Trump’s there, Trump’s the man,” said one. According to another, “If he wasn’t running against Trump, DeSantis would be my very next choice.”
Trump, on the other hand, draws some fervent, if appalling, support. “He might say mean things and make all the men cry because all the men are wearing your wife’s underpants and you can’t be a man anymore,” said a New Hampshire voter who the pollsters apparently concluded was not engaged in performance art. “You got to be a little sissy and cry about everything. But at the end of the day, you want results. Donald Trump’s my guy. He’s proved it on a national level.”
The real hope for DeSantis, in other words, is some kind of total Trump collapse. But what could cause that kind of collapse as long as Trump is alive and healthy enough to show up at rallies? Despite his long list of indictments, just 17% of Republican primary voters believe he has committed serious federal crimes—and 22% of those would vote for him anyway. Despite all we know, just 19% of Republican primary voters think Trump’s behavior after his 2020 loss was a threat to democracy. There’s so much information available about Trump’s bad acts, yet Republican primary voters remain loyal to him. It’s not a lot for DeSantis to work with, but he’s also not doing very much with what he has. Being an awkward, unlikable person with a poorly run campaign will do that.
So that’s your top two Republican candidates: A guy who looks at his enormous leads in the polls and complains that anyone is daring to be there running 37 points behind him, and a guy trying to pretend that a 37-point deficit is a strong position to be in. And both of them—the one who lost in 2020 and led his party to huge losses in 2018 and an underperformance in 2022, and the one who didn’t even get a polling bounce when he officially entered the campaign—are trying to run as winners.