A new statewide poll in Iowa, with a few weeks to go before the caucuses begin, shows what could end up being one of the most dramatic shifts in support for the 2024 Republican primary so far.
Nikki Haley has jumped into second place thanks to a 10-point swing in her favor recorded by the Emerson College poll between September and December. The former UN ambassador and South Carolina governor has clearly benefited from back-to-back positive debate performances and cratering support for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Mr. DeSantis, who previously held second place in Emerson's previous Iowa poll, has sunk to third place after gaining just one percentage point over three months. It's a statistic that spells doom for the DeSantis campaign, which has been betting big on the Jan. 15 primary contest. The governor has visited every one of Iowa's 99 counties over the past year — completing what's known as the “Full Grassley” — and won the crucial endorsement of Kim Reynolds, Iowa's Republican governor.
Neither seems to be enough to change the reality: Mr. DeSantis has failed to capture any momentum for his campaign and now follows Ms. Haley in a state where she has focused far less time and money than her opponent.
Donald Trump, as expected, remains on top. The former president is the front-runner to win not only the Iowa caucus, but the entire Republican primary season at this point. However, like Mr. DeSantis, he gained just one percent in September-December. This result specifically suggests that the four-time impeached former president, who faces unprecedented legal hurdles and associated political baggage, has outgrown his support among Republican voters. About half of Iowa's Republican electorate is behind the idea of keeping the Trump movement alive at this point, while the other half is split between various leaders who hope to be next.
That sets up an interesting dynamic for January 15th, which thanks to Iowa's caucus system will include several rounds of vote counting and politicking and the chance to see those trends play out in real time. If the poll is to be believed, supporters of DeSantis and Haley could have real choices to make as the night wears on. So are supporters of Vivek Ramaswamy and Chris Christie, whose candidates recorded single-digit levels of support in the Emerson survey and will likely have to decide on a second choice.
The Emerson poll polled 420 Republican constituents between December 15 and 17. the confidence interval for the GOP sample in the survey was 4.7 percentage points.