Ron DeSantis falls far behind Trump in first polls for Republican 2024 candidate

Florida governor Ron DeSantis

Florida governor Ron DeSantis has fallen far behind former president Donald Trump in the first polls for the Republican primary elections. 

Three of the first states to hold Republican primary elections, in early 2024, will see Trump and DeSantis go head-to-head, with other candidates including entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former vice-president Mike Pence, and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, among others

DeSantis, once thought to be a frontrunner along with Trump, is now trailing far behind the former president in all three states to hold elections first: Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. 

Iowa, which is holding its Republican presidential caucus on 15 January, shows polling averaging Trump at 48.8 per cent support, and DeSantis with 14.8 per cent support.

New Hampshire’s poll averages also see Trump outstripping DeSantis at 45 per cent to 9.3 per cent, while Nevada also shows Trump beating DeSantis by a wide margin. 

DeSantis is not just falling behind in popularity in these states, however, with a poll from July 2023 finding that Republican voters in Florida, the state where he is governor, prefer Trump to him, with 50 per cent of registered Republicans opting for the former president.

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Ron DeSantis – who implemented the cruel Don’t Say Gay law limiting LGBTQ+ education in Florida schools in 2022 – is known in his own state for passing a slew of anti-LGBTQ+ laws over the past year. 

In May, the governor signed five anti-LGBTQ+ laws, restricting gender-affirming care for young trans people, restricting the rights of trans people to use public toilets, and limiting trans people’s access to youth sports programmes.

DeSantis’ anti-LGBTQ+ laws in Florida became so extreme that in May, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) warned LGBTQ+ people not to visit the state

“Since the day he took office, governor DeSantis has weaponised his position to weave bigotry, hate, and discrimination into public law for his own political gain,” HRC president Kelley Robinson said.

On 24 May, DeSantis launched his bid to become US president in 2024, with LGBTQ+ activists quickly slamming the governor as an “divisive, cruel, and chaotic”

“Dangerously out-of-step with average Americans’ views on freedom and equality, DeSantis has weaponised his position as governor to target and punish anyone he considers his political enemy, including LGBTQ+ families, Black and brown Floridians, immigrants and private businesses,” Kelley Robinson said when his campaign was announced.

“Even with the majority of Floridians forcefully opposing his anti-LGBTQ laws and despite surging support for LGBTQ+ families nationally, DeSantis is failing to recognise the duties of the job for which he’s campaigning.

“The ‘freedom’ Ron DeSantis peddles is freedom for a very few at the expense of freedom and liberty for all.”