Post-launch bounces for DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence? Not according to the public polls. A bump for Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) after his official kickoff? Yes, but only enough to vault him to the mid-single-digits, roughly tied for third place with Pence and Scott’s fellow South Carolinian, Nikki Haley.
And, most importantly, Trump’s grip over GOP primary voters remains mostly unaffected despite his federal indictment last week on charges he absconded with classified documents from the White House. Nationally, Trump has been over 50 percent in the RealClearPolitics average since early April — following his other criminal indictment, in New York City — and the three polls conducted mostly or entirely after his second indictment show him between 51 percent and 53 percent.
The lack of movement between the candidates over an otherwise busy period suggests the race is, on the whole, stable. Trump leads DeSantis — whose support has faded somewhat since earlier this year — with the other candidates still vying for a toehold. And it’s likely to stay that way for next two months, until the first televised debate on Aug. 23.
Trump: Steady with Republicans, but trouble looms
The first Trump indictment — charges levied earlier this spring by a Manhattan grand jury in the hush-money case involving porn star Stormy Daniels — actually boosted Trump in the Republican primary.
That’s not happening this time — at least not so far — though there’s also no indication the federal charges Trump is facing in Florida are making Republican primary voters less likely to say they want him to be the party’s 2024 nominee.
Trump leads DeSantis, his closest competitor, by at least 30 points in the three national polls conducted mostly or entirely after the news of the federal indictment broke. And he’s narrowly above 50 percent in each of the surveys, from The Messenger/HarrisX (53 percent), Quinnipiac University (53 percent) and The Economist/YouGov (51 percent).
On the day of Trump’s first indictment, he stood at 46 percent in the national RealClearPolitics average, with DeSantis at 30 percent. Within a week, Trump was over 50 percent. He now leads DeSantis, 52 percent to 21 percent.
But Trump’s sustained strength in the GOP primary belies his tenuous position with the overall electorate. A new NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist College poll conducted after the indictment and released on Friday found a majority of registered voters want Trump to drop out of the race, and roughly half (49 percent) believe he broke the law, consistent with other surveys showing Americans broadly concerned about Trump’s conduct.
DeSantis: Where’s the bounce?
DeSantis’ 9-point drop over the past two-and-a-half months is also evidence that the Florida governor hasn’t seen much improvement since the late-May launch of his campaign. He was at 23 percent in the Quinnipiac poll this week, statistically unchanged from the 25 percent he registered in Quinnipiac’s previous survey, which was conducted in the days just before his announcement.
In fact, DeSantis’ vote share in the RealClearPolitics national average today is identical to where it stood on May 24, the day he launched his campaign: 21 percent.
Of course, the nomination won’t be decided by a simultaneous national primary, and DeSantis’ allies have been clear that they’re banking on a strong performance in Iowa, which will hold the first caucuses, likely sometime next January.
There hasn’t been much independent polling in Iowa lately — the only recent poll in the RealClearPolitics database is from the Trump-friendly online outlet American Greatness more than a week ago — but other data streams suggest the DeSantis push in Iowa continues in earnest.
Never Back Down, the pro-DeSantis super PAC, is the leading spender on the Iowa airwaves this week, though North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum’s campaign is a close second (and campaigns generally pay lower rates for advertising than outside groups like super PACs, meaning Burgum’s money is likely going further than Never Back Down’s).
The field: Signs of life for Scott, Christie
Though Trump and DeSantis remain stagnant, there are smaller moves happening among the candidates fighting to emerge from the lower tiers.
Scott, who kicked off his campaign the same week as DeSantis, has seen an uptick in his polling. He’s averaged around 4 percent in national polls since his launch, and he hit 7 percent in an American Greatness poll in New Hampshire this week.
Other than the self-funding Burgum, Scott and his allied super PAC, Trust in the Mission PAC, have been the leading advertisers this week in New Hampshire.
Meanwhile, another candidate is also rising in the polls in New Hampshire: former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Christie, who launched his campaign last week at a town hall just outside Manchester, is banking on a strong showing in the first-in-the-nation primary state. And two polls this week had him in third or tied for third: He was even with Scott at 7 percent in the American Greatness poll, and he also hit 9 percent in a poll out of New Hampshire from the conservative website New Hampshire Journal on Friday.