DemDaily: The GOP Primary: Polling Snapshot

December 12, 2023

The first nominating contest of the 2024 GOP presidential primary -- the all important first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucuses -- is just five weeks away.

Former President Donald Trump continues to lead his rivals by substantial margins in the early primary window of four states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- which are the established representatives of each region of the country.

Historically, the performance in these states determines the trajectory and outcome of the presidential primary.

Presidential primary elections are run by state and local governments, while caucuses are private, in-person events that are run directly by the political parties themselves.

January 15: Iowa Republican Caucus, 40 Presidential Delegates
Poll: NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom, conducted by Selzer and Co. 12/2-12/7/23 of Likely Caucus Voters, MOE: +/- 4.4%.

Trump has expanded his lead over his opponents, earning 51% first-choice support from likely Iowa caucusgoers -- up from 43% in the media outlets' October 22-26 poll.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis received 19%, up 3% from the October poll, and former UN Ambassador Haley held steady at 16%. Tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy followed at 5%, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at 4% and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson at 1%.

Trump’s lead is fueled by majorities of evangelical Christians (51%), self-identified Republicans (59%), first-time caucusgoers (63%) and white men without college degrees (66%).

Despite Trump's sizable advantage, 30% picked DeSantis as their second choice, and an additional 18% say they’re actively considering the Florida governor. 17% selected Haley as their second choice, with another 19% saying they’re actively considering her.

Key: The results of the Iowa caucus will be critical -- while Trump will almost certainly take win the state, his margin may hold the key for a potential challenger. If Trumps finishes by less than 50%, it could momentum for insurgents to coalesce around a single alternative candidate.

January 23: New Hampshire Republican primary, 22 Delegates
Poll: CNN, conducted by University of New Hampshire Survey Center, 11/9-11/14 of Likely Primary Voters, MOE: +/-2.2%.

In the last public poll in November, 42% of voters surveyed voters backed Trump, while 20% said they supported Haley, and 14% supported Christie.

While Trump's lead among self-identified Republicans stood at more than 3 to 1, the poll found the top three GOP candidates locked in a dead heat among independent voters -- which could be problematic for Trump, who lost the state by 7.35% to Biden in 2020 choice.

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu (R) is expected to endorse Haley tonight at a event in Manchester. The nod from Sununu, who boasts an 81% approval rating among likely Republican voters, may be the boost needed to position Haley as the clear alternative to Trump.

Sununu, a vocal Trump critic, has been weighing his endorsement for months, saying he will put all of his efforts into an aggressive campaign and ground game for his final choice.

February 8: Nevada Republican Caucus, 26 Delegates
Poll: Morning Consult, Likely Caucus Voters, November 1-30, 2023. MOE: +/-2%+.

Trump is leading with 67%, followed by both DeSantis and Ramaswamy at 10%, Haley at 9% and Christie at 3%

In February, Nevada voters will be casting ballots in two separate contests, a primary and a caucus for the Republican presidential nominating process, resulting in two separate winners -- though only the winner of the caucus will be awarded delegates.

Nevada has long held caucuses, but a state law enacted in 2021 mandated a primary, now scheduled for February 6, if more than one candidate filed. The state GOP, in defiance, opted to host its own caucuses two days later, declaring that delegates would be awarded only to the winner of the caucus. The price for a candidate to participate in the caucus was $55,000, or $35,000 if their campaign also held a fundraiser for the state party.

The major contenders who registered for the state-run primary on February 6 include Haley and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and Vice President Mike Pence. With Scott and Pence both out of the race, Haley is favored to win the primary, but it will only be symbolic.

Those running in the February 8 caucuses held by the Nevada Republican Party are Trump, DeSantis, Ramaswamy, Christie and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, who has dropped out of the race.

Although Haley has not elaborated on the move, her choice may have been a strategic decision, weighing the national attention of potentially winning the Nevada primary versus winning the delegates.

The US Virgin Islands will also hold its GOP caucus on February 8, with four delegates to the national convention.

February 24: South Carolina Republican Primary, 50 Delegates
Poll: Trafalgar Group for the Republic Party. 12/6-12/8, Likely Primary Voters, MOE: +/- 2.9%.

Trump leads the survey with 49%, followed by Haley with 23%, DeSantis 14%, and both Ramaswamy and Christie at 6%. The stakes are high for Haley, who served as governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017.

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Kimberly Scott

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Resources: Des Moines Register, Real Clear Politics, NBC, NH Public Radio, FiveThirtyEight, CNN

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