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