It may be early to speculate on the outcome of Iowa caucuses three years away. But a new poll finds promising news for Gov. Ron DeSantis if former President Donald Trump doesn’t run.
Polling by Victory Insights shows Trump remains the heavy frontrunner in the Republican caucuses if he wants a rematch with President Joe Biden. More than 61% of likely caucus-goers favor the former President, with no other candidate breaking 10%, and the closest Florida candidate behind Trump is DeSantis, in sixth place behind former Vice President Mike Pence, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
DeSantis beats Cruz when looking at all Iowa Republicans, but in the Trump-inclusive polling, there seems little room for an alternative that draws support from the Trump base.
But take Trump out of the equation and the scenario shifts significantly for DeSantis. There, Desantis rises to the top of the poll with just under 20% of support from likely caucus-goers, followed closely by Pence.
When all Iowa Republicans are included in the poll, Pence outperforms DeSantis substantially, with more than 19% support to DeSantis’ just under 14%, about the same percentage as Romney.
It all leads to Victory Insights calling DeSantis and Pence the frontrunners in a Trump-less race. But there may be more good news for the Florida Governor in the poll.
DeSantis rises to the top among likely caucus-goers because he is the second-favorite candidate for most Trump supporters, about a quarter of whom list DeSantis as their choice in the event Trump sits the race out. Pence would get about 23% of the Trump vote.
The complicated nature of caucuses means being a top-choice doesn’t always mean a candidate has the greatest chance of winning the state. Pollsters run models and give DeSantis a 57% chance of leading after a first alignment in the caucus, while Pence has a 36% chance and Cruz 7%.
Following models further, pollsters figure only those three candidates would be viable for a second alignment. Based on where votes go from there, Cruz would net the most on a second alignment with DeSantis doing better than Pence, but the firm still figures DeSantis would lead the pack with almost 24% of caucus support to Pence’s nearly 23% and Cruz’s 19%.
Running that through models about a million times, the Victory Insights report forms a 57% chance DeSantis wins at second alignment to Pence’s 29% odds and Cruz’s 17% win rate.
“Florida Governor Ron DeSantis leads the field, largely due to his strong ties to Donald Trump. Former Vice President and fellow Midwesterner Mike Pence sits comfortably in second place among likely Iowa caucus-goers. Ted Cruz, who won the 2016 Iowa Caucus, slips into third place,” a polling memo explains.
“Of course, there are several aspects of the Iowa caucus that polls can simply not anticipate. For instance, the dynamics of the re-alignment process will vary from precinct to precinct. However, our demographically-weighted study of several hundred Iowa voters offers the best window we have into what lies ahead in 2024.”