Feb 28, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Trump's February bump


Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Four new polls show former President Trump has received a boost in Republican support — with one survey showing him hitting 50% support in a crowded GOP field.

Why it matters: After a shaky start to his presidential campaign, Trump has quietly found his footing over the last month.

  • His visit to the derailment site in East Palestine, Ohio — ahead of President Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg — showed off a touch of empathy, at least by Trump standards.
  • The former president got out of his mega-rally comfort zone in favor of several small campaign stops for ice cream in South Carolina and McDonald's in Ohio, where his impromptu visits were well-received by the restaurant staff.

By the numbers: A new Emerson poll found Trump with a 30-point lead (55%-25%) against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — up from a 26-point lead (55%-29%) over DeSantis in Emerson's January survey.

  • Trump wins a whopping 72% support among Republicans with a high school degree or less.
  • Emerson's poll also found Trump leading Biden, 46%-42%. DeSantis trailed Biden, 44%-40%.

The big picture: The findings in the Emerson poll, which has lately been favorable to Trump, were matched by three other top pollsters.

  • A new Yahoo News/YouGov poll has Trump opening up an 8-point lead on DeSantis (47%-39%), after DeSantis led the former president by 4 in the pollster's previous survey at the beginning of February.
  • The GOP polling firm Echelon Insights found Trump leading DeSantis by 15 points (46%-31%) on a national ballot test. Last month, the pollster found Trump only leading DeSantis by 2 points (36%-34%).
  • Fox News' first presidential primary poll, testing the GOP presidential ballot, found Trump leading DeSantis by 15 points (43%-28%).

Between the lines: Even as Trump appears to be the clear Republican front-runner, with a committed base of at least one-quarter of the GOP electorate, his rivals are holding their fire against him.

  • Nikki Haley only mentioned his name once in her kickoff address. DeSantis has studiously avoided responding to his social media attacks.
  • Trump is also maintaining significant support even as his campaign events aren't drawing remotely the same wall-to-wall coverage as they did during his presidency (or during the 2016 campaign).

The bottom line: The beginning of the 2024 campaign is feeling similar to the 2016 race, when Trump's GOP rivals assumed he would automatically fade without them doing anything to stunt his momentum.

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