DeSantis narrowly leads Trump in Florida as governor’s approval rating reaches 59%: poll

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to enjoy high approval ratings and would beat former President Donald Trump in a head-to-head primary matchup in the Sunshine State, according to a new poll. A Mason-Dixon Florida poll released last week finds that 59% of registered voters approve of DeSantis’ performance as governor since his landslide re-election in November. The governor’s job rating has increased by four points since just before the 2022 election, but it still remains below his all-time high approval rating of 62% in March 2019.  The survey found 39% of Florida voters disapprove of DeSantis’ performance in office and only 2% were unsure. DeSantis, who is widely expected to announce his candidacy for president once the Florida legislature wraps up its current session this spring, earned national recognition by reversing course on COVID-19 lockdowns, attacking “woke” critical race theory and gender-identity content in schools, and punching back at corporation like Disney or journalists who have criticized his agenda. His combative attitude toward this opposition has won equal parts praise from conservatives and revulsion from progressives.  DEMOCRATS DROP OPPO DUMP ON RON DESANTIS IN EFFORT TO DERAIL WHITE HOUSE HOPES His impressive 19-point re-election victory last November stood out in a midterm election year when Republicans generally underperformed, propelling him to the forefront of 2024 White House speculation among political pundits – much to the chagrin of Trump, the GOP primary front-runner.  The Mason-Dixon poll shows DeSantis is far more popular than Trump or President Biden, who are underwater with voters in Florida. Statewide, 53% of voters like DeSantis while 36% have an unfavorable opinion of the governor.  Trump currently holds a 39% favorable and 50% unfavorable rating, while Biden is viewed favorably by just 33% of Florida voters and unfavorable by 54%.  Notably, DeSantis remains significantly more popular than Trump even among regular Republican primary voters.  National GOP primary polling has shown Trump with wide leads over DeSantis, but in the crucial first-in-the-nation caucus and primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire the race is much closer.  TONGUE-TIED TRUMP RIVALS CAN’T TRASH THEIR INDICTED TORMENTOR Among GOP voters, DeSantis’ favorable recognition is 87%, compared to 71% for Trump, the survey found. Trump’s negatives with Republicans (19%) are nearly three times worse than those of DeSantis (7%). In a direct head-to-head matchup, DeSantis leads Trump 44%-39% among registered Republican voters.  The Mason-Dixon poll surveyed 625 registered voters in Florida with a four percentage points margin of error.  Though DeSantis is not a declared candidate for president, Trump world has already begun launching attacks at the governor, hoping to deter him from entering the race or preemptively sink his favorable ratings with Republicans.  In TV ads that started running Friday, the Trump-aligned MAGA Inc. attacks DeSantis’ voting record as a member of Congress, highlighting his position on Social Security entitlements.  “Think you know Ron DeSantis? Think again,” the commercial’s narrator says. “In Congress, DeSantis voted three separate times to cut Social Security.” PRO-DESANTIS SUPER PACT TOUTS $30 MILLION FUNDRAISING HAUL SINCE LAUNCH IN MARCH “The more you see about DeSantis, the more you see he doesn’t share our values. He’s not ready to be president,” the narrator charges at the end of the spot. DeSantis came under a similar line of attack by rival Adam Putnam during the 2018 Florida Republican gubernatorial primary. The fact-checking website Politifact described the attack as misleading and an exaggeration of DeSantis’ voting record in Congress. Trump himself has for months excoriated DeSantis on Truth Social, calling him “Ron DeSanctus” and accusing the governor of supporting cuts to Social Security or Medicare. DeSantis has mostly refrained from criticizing Trump directly, though the pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down published a video last week titled “Waco Crickets,” which highlighted media reports indicating the loud and boisterous crowd at the Trump rally last weekend in Waco, Texas, turned mostly quiet when the former presidential repeatedly attacked the Florida governor.  The fighting between the two GOP heavyweights has largely overshadowed the other declared candidates for president, including former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Vice President Mike Pence is also anticipated to launch a presidential campaign in the near future, while former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has signaled interest in running too.  Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.
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