Former President Donald Trump’s continued rise in the polls is putting an extreme amount of pressure on the man who has consistently been in second place in 2024 GOP primary polling: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
As noted by Reuters, the DeSantis camp is putting a great deal of effort into winning the very important state of Iowa in January “despite the former president’s commanding lead in polls and growing questions about DeSantis’ viability.”
Trump has led the GOP field since he officially declared his candidacy in November, but, according to several recent surveys, he has managed to widen his lead over DeSantis, to say nothing of the rest of the GOP field, most of whom are polling in single digits.
“Even as he trails Trump by close to 30 percentage points in national polls, DeSantis and his advisers are sticking to a long-haul, Iowa-first strategy. They hope that an upset win in the state would stall Trump’s momentum, according to two sources close to the campaign, who asked not to be identified so that they could discuss campaign strategy,” Reuters noted, adding:
They acknowledged they might never fully close the national polling gap before Iowa’s caucuses on Jan. 15, the first in a series of nominating contests to decide the Republican nominee for the November 2024 presidential election.
The focus on Iowa appears to be a recognition by the campaign that DeSantis’ other paths to victory are shrinking, turning the Midwestern state into a do-or-die for him, according to more than a dozen interviews with the DeSantis campaign, Trump advisers, grassroots Republican operatives in Iowa and donors.
After a much-anticipated presidential launch on May 24, DeSantis is languishing a distant second in the Republican field and has yet to catch fire in any real way.
“A win in Iowa, a second in New Hampshire, we lose a couple candidates before Nevada and South Carolina, and then we are in a bloody, two-person race,” said one of the two sources in comments to Reuters, making reference to follow-on primaries
“He’s gotta have a win in the first three primaries, and Iowa is his best bet,” noted Chris Stirewalt, who analyzes elections for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.
He added that the biggest fear of major donors is that DeSantis manages to win Iowa but then just becomes a solid second-place finisher “with the resources to stick around but not the reach to win the nomination.”
Still, the all-out effort in Iowa may yet pay big dividends down the road.
“I think the DeSantis people have done themselves a huge favor by getting a door-to-door operation going early,” Ryan Frederick, chairman of the Republican Party in Adair County in rural western Iowa, told Reuters “It is extremely rare in my part of the world.”
Reuters added: “DeSantis is scheduled to visit Iowa on Friday, his third trip to the state since declaring his presidential bid. His wife, Casey DeSantis, last week traveled to Iowa to launch a national ‘Mamas for DeSantis’ campaign focused on parental rights, hoping to win over the swing vote of suburban Republican women.”
Meanwhile, another new survey shows DeSantis trailing Trump by nearly 30 points.
In California, Trump towers over the Florida governor 50-23 percent, according to Florida Politics.
“If there is any consolation for DeSantis, the rest of the field is doing even worse,” the report noted.
“Former Vice President Mike Pence has 6% support and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina is at 5%. Former U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley all have 3% backing,” it said.
Other surveys show Trump leading comfortably as well in the Golden State.
“In a recent Emerson College Poll of California Republicans, DeSantis trails Trump in the 2024 Presidential Primary race, 53% to 19%, with Pence at 10%,” Florida Politics noted.
“A previous Public Policy Institute of California survey, conducted May 17-24, shows the former President with 50% support, way ahead of DeSantis at 21%.”