- by cnn
- 29 Feb 2024
With Wednesday's CNN town hall behind him, former President Donald Trump remains both the prohibitive GOP front-runner for the 2024 nomination and a man who was found liable this week in a civil case for sexually abusing and defaming former magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll.
While we cannot yet know what effect that verdict will have on the race for the Republican nomination, Trump built his large polling advantage with this civil trial in the news and after being indicted earlier this spring in a separate criminal case related to hush money payments to Stormy Daniels. (Trump has denied all wrongdoing.)
Trump's edge in surveys of Republican voters and in endorsements from elected officials at this stage is among the strongest for a nonincumbent in the modern presidential primary era.
Trump is polling, on average, north of 50% in national polls of likely GOP primary voters. His nearest potential challenger - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has yet to launch a campaign - is earning a little north of 20% of the Republican primary vote on average. No other potential Republican candidate is in double digits.
There are very few candidates, from either party, in nonincumbent races who were near or north of 50% in the national primary polls this early on. That select few includes Republicans Bob Dole in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2000, and Democrats Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016. All of those candidates won their party's nominations, and none of those races were particularly close.
Interestingly, all the legal controversies involving Trump have not hurt him in the polls. At the beginning of the year, Trump was earning a little more than 40% of the vote, on average, and was only about 10 points ahead of DeSantis. Trump's lead is now triple that, at closer to 30 points, on average.
The advantages that DeSantis once had have similarly melted away. For example, in New Hampshire - where Wednesday's town hall took place - DeSantis was up by 12 points over Trump at the beginning of the year, according to University of New Hampshire polling. Trump has now opened up a 20-point advantage in the latest UNH survey among likely GOP primary voters.
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