- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Florida voters prefer Gov. Ron DeSantis over former President Donald Trump by an 8-percentage-point margin in a hypothetical 2024 GOP primary, according to a new poll that shows Mr. Trump’s support in his adopted state has slipped since the start of the year.

The USA Today/Suffolk Poll said Republican voters in Florida prefer Mr. DeSantis, 48%-40%, over Mr. Trump — a stark reversal from the 47%-40% lead that Mr. Trump enjoyed in a similar poll in January.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean DeSantis would lead in any other GOP primary state,” David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, told USA Today. “But it is one data point suggesting a shift in preferences from GOP voters away from Trump and toward DeSantis from Republicans who know both potential combatants quite well.”

Both men lead President Biden in a hypothetical 2024 matchup, though Mr. DeSantis enjoys a 52%-44% margin compared to the 47%-44% lead for Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump, a longtime New Yorker, officially declared himself a Florida resident during his presidency. In recent months, his Mar-a-Lago home has been the focus of a federal investigation of sensitive government documents that were discovered at the estate.

Mr. DeSantis, meanwhile, has raised his profile during a reelection bid this year by sparring with the media and recently flying 50 Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, saying Northeast “sanctuary” sites should absorb some of the influx.

The governor is viewed by many in GOP circles as the most likely alternative to Mr. Trump. Mr. DeSantis’ blunt style is in the same mold as Mr. Trump’s, but the governor isn’t dogged by the type of investigations that surround the ex-president.

Beyond the documents probe, Mr. Trump has been battered by inquiries into his post-2020 election actions and the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Mr. DeSantis leads Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist in the governor’s race, 48%-41%, — a slight shift from his 49%-43% lead over Mr. Crist at the start of the year, before Mr. Crist won the nomination.

In the Senate race, pollsters said Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, leads Rep. Val Demings, a Democrat, by 45% to 41%, meaning Mr. Rubio’s support has dropped 4 percentage points since January while Ms. Demings’ level of support has remained the same.

The poll of 500 likely midterm voters was taken by phone Thursday through Sunday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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