DES MOINES, IOWA — Could the Iowa caucuses be Ron DeSantis’ path to victory heading into the Republican primary?
If Ron DeSantis can convince Iowans that he’s more electable than Donald Trump over the next few months, it may propel him closer to a Super Tuesday victory well before the former president stands trial in Florida on May 20, 2024.
Trump’s national poll numbers remain strong, but the DeSantis campaign sees a strategic opening in Iowa. According to the campaign’s political director Sam Cooper, what current national surveys say six months before the Iowa caucus doesn’t mean anything.
“If it did, Jeb Bush would be president,” Cooper said. “The reason I’m not worried about the surveys right now is most people haven’t dialed into this thing yet. It’s summer. And for caucus goers, we have to go introduce him.”
The DeSantis campaign says Iowa is a unique state and the Florida governor is more interested in growing support from local leaders, pastors and state legislators.
WHAT DO THE POLLS LOOK LIKE IN IOWA?
The New York Post reported that 78 percent of Iowa Republican caucus participants disagreed with Trump’s comments about their Governor, Kim Reynolds, and DeSantis had the same favorability rating among Iowa Republicans – 78 percent.
A New York Times/Siena College poll of the Iowa caucus released today shows that Trump leads 43 percent to DeSantis’ 20 percent. But his position in Iowa is much weaker than the nationwide surveys.
DeSantis has the highest favorability ratings in the poll and a clear majority of caucus participants consider him more “likable” and “moral” than the former president. Trump’s electability advantage over DeSantis is only nine points in the Iowa poll.
A RIPPLE EFFECT
If DeSantis gains an advantage by winning the Iowa caucus – the first primary of the race – it could cause a ripple effect in how other Republicans vote moving forward.
“My observation tells me there is a strong silent majority of people who think Gov. DeSantis would be a great direction for our country,” Texas Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) told the Washington Examiner.
“A lot of them just don’t want to break from the former president. But when you talk to them privately, they say, ‘Oh man, I really really like Gov. DeSantis.’ I really think he’s in a good spot,” Roy said.
Last month in South Carolina, a self-professing “hardcore Trump supporter” said she realized how important her vote is after listening to DeSantis speak.
According to Roy, the country needs a “fresh perspective,” and he thinks DeSantis is “somebody who could serve eight years” and has a “track record of success.”
“COME IN AND DO IT”
Karen Fesler, an undecided Iowa voter and former Caucus Coalition adviser for former Sen. Rick Santorum, told CBS News that although Trump’s base in Iowa “is still very strong,” a statewide tour of all 99 counties might give DeSantis the boost he needs.
“If you’re gonna do it, come in and do it,” she told the outlet. “We’ll see. It’s the first of August and our caucuses are the 15th of January. And you’ve got Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s holidays in there. There’s not a whole lot of time left.”