AP Photo/Evan Vucci
- Ron DeSantis leads Donald Trump in the critical early-voting state of New Hampshire, according to a UNH poll.
- The survey showed DeSantis leading Trump 42% to 30%, with many GOP voters desiring a fresh face.
- Trump on Saturday will visit New Hampshire and South Carolina as he seeks to stake his claim to the GOP nomination.
As former President Donald Trump ramps up his campaign activity ahead of the 2024 Republican presidential calendar, he finds himself trailing Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida in the early-voting state of New Hampshire, according to a new poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire.
In what could be a highly competitive presidential primary, likely New Hampshire Republican voters in the survey preferred DeSantis over Trump by a 12-point margin — 42% to 30%, respectively. The former president’s support among GOP base voters — while still strong in many states — has nonetheless eroded in some national polls and statewide surveys in recent months.
Nikki Haley, the former US Ambassador to the United Nations and ex-South Carolina governor who could potentially launch a campaign in the coming months, came in third with 8% support.
Gov. Chris Sununu, who was easily reelected to a fourth term last November as New Hampshire’s governor and has been critical of Trump’s continued influence within the party, earned 4% support in the survey.
Also, former Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and former Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland each earned 4% support among the GOP respondents followed by Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota at 2%. Former Vice President Mike Pence, and Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas each received 1% support in the survey.
After Trump launched his presidential campaign last November — making him the first high-profile contender in the field — his campaign activity largely went cold.
But that will change this weekend as he heads to New Hampshire and South Carolina to speak with Republican leaders and activists as part of efforts to stake his claim in winning the GOP nomination.
Politico reported on Saturday that Trump was bringing on New Hampshire Republican Party chairman Stephen Stepanek to help lead his campaign in the pivotal state. And he will rally with Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina — an early 2016 backer — and Sen. Lindsey Graham in the Palmetto State.
In 2015, Trump entered the GOP contest and quickly took the field by storm — knocking off experienced candidates like former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, then-Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida — and drawing many nontraditional GOP voters to the polls across the country, which helped him defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the general election.
While Republicans almost uniformly laud Trump’s tenure in office, he was deeply polarizing, which contributed to Democrats winning back the House after the 2018 midterms and the election of now-President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
As Trump has continued to nurse his grievances about the 2020 contest, some Republicans have argued that the party suffered in the 2022 midterms by reflecting too much on the past and failing to articulate their vision for the future.
In the poll, a little under half (46%) of Republicans felt that Trump should run for president again, while roughly 50% thought that he should definitely not run — a sharp decline from UNH’s July 2021 poll, when 62% of respondents felt he should run and 35% thought that he should forgo another campaign.
Soon after the November midterms, Hogan blasted Trump over the party’s performance.
“This should have been a huge red wave. It should have been one of the biggest red waves we have ever had because President Biden’s approval rating was so low, one of the lowest historically, more than 70 percent of people thought the country was going in the wrong direction. And yet we still didn’t perform,” he said during a CNN interview at the time.
The University of New Hampshire Survey Center polled 349 likely Republican voters from January 19 through January 23; the full survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.