Nov 13, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Trump pollster sees Haley benefiting from Tim Scott's exit

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Trump pollster Tony Fabrizio is telling donors that former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is likely to benefit the most in Iowa from Sen. Tim Scott's (R-S.C.) surprise decision to end his campaign, according to a confidential memo obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: Fabrizio's findings in Iowa suggest that support for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who is banking on a strong showing in the Jan. 15 caucuses — is "stagnant" despite Scott's exit, a widely praised debate performance and an endorsement from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.

  • "Despite the narrative that the DeSantis team is trying to push, it's clear that other candidates dropping out is not causing voters to consolidate around him," the memo argues.
  • Trump (43%) continues to boast a massive lead in Iowa over DeSantis (19%) and Haley (16%), who are in a "dog fight" for second place, Fabrizio found.

Zoom in: The poll of 600 likely Republican caucus-goers — conducted from Nov. 9-12 and commissioned by Trump's MAGA Inc. super PAC — found that 43% of Scott supporters picked Haley as their second choice, followed by Trump at 22% and DeSantis at 16%.

  • Given that Scott was polling only in the single digits, however, his withdrawal from the primary does little to cut into Trump's big lead, according to the memo.
  • Fabrizio's results align broadly with last month's findings by renowned Iowa pollster J. Ann Selzer, whose gold-standard survey had DeSantis and Haley tied for a distant second.

What they're saying: "It is clear that if anyone is benefiting from Scott's dropping out, it is his fellow South Carolinian, Nikki Haley, not Ron DeSantis," Fabrizio and his colleagues write.

Between the lines: The DeSantis and Haley campaigns have both cast their rival candidate as a "spoiler" who is incapable of defeating Trump — giving the former president's team every incentive to play up their feud.

  • DeSantis officials argue that Haley is incapable of winning enough MAGA-friendly and evangelical voters to take down Trump in a head-to-head matchup in Iowa.
  • Haley officials argue that DeSantis' polling weakness in New Hampshire and South Carolina show he has no "end game" beyond Iowa, where a poor performance could spell the demise of his campaign.

What to watch: Haley's campaign is blanketing Iowa and New Hampshire with $10 million in TV, radio and digital ad reservations beginning in December, seeking to capitalize on her momentum and overtake DeSantis in the early-voting states.

Read the full memo.


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