Ron DeSantis’ Endorsements in Iowa Are Producing Limited Returns

Endorsements from the state’s governor and a key evangelical leader have done little to boost the GOP candidate’s support
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December 11, 2023 at 5:00 am UTC

To see how 2024 Republican presidential candidates are faring in 25 other states, and how their support has shifted over the past year, download our State-Level GOP Primary Outlook.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last month picked up two of Iowa’s most coveted endorsements a Republican presidential candidate can hope for, but Morning Consult survey tracking suggests the impact on the nomination race in the Hawkeye State is more ripple than splash.

Surveys we conducted last month in Iowa — where Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) endorsed DeSantis on Nov. 6 and key evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats followed suit 15 days later — peg the GOP candidate’s support among potential Republican caucusgoers at 18%, compared with 15% in surveys conducted in October. 

DeSantis Gains 3 Points During a Month of Key Endorsements

Share of potential Republican caucusgoers in Iowa who said they would choose the following if the nominating contest were held in their state today:
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Tim Scott was removed from our daily tracking on Nov. 13, one day after he announced he was suspending his presidential campaign.
Surveys conducted Oct. 1-31 and Nov. 1-30, 2023, among unweighted samples of roughly 300 potential Republican caucusgoers in Iowa, with unweighted margins of error of +/-6 percentage points.

Despite the increase in support, DeSantis still trailed former President Donald Trump, the nomination race’s dominant front-runner, by 32 percentage points last month. That compares favorably with a 42-point deficit in October, but remains far outside the margin of error.

What’s nonetheless troubling for DeSantis is that Trump’s 7-point loss in support between October and November appears to have been evenly spread among other candidates in the race. 

Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley each saw 4-point increases, with the former reaching 13% and the latter hitting 11%. Meanwhile, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who dropped out of the race on Nov. 12 and was removed from our daily tracking the next day, saw his support decline from 6% to 5% since October.

The outlook heading into 2024

While the Reynolds’ and Vander Plaats’ endorsements were big for DeSantis, our trend data suggests they weren’t as big as he needed them to be. Though the Florida governor has pulled closer to Trump, he’s still far behind him.

DeSantis has also created little separation among the other candidates polling just a few points below him. A little more than a month out from the Jan. 15 caucuses, that’s cause for concern. It is easier to capitalize on an endorsement when you’re the only viable option, and ample support for Haley and Ramaswamy suggests that’s not how Iowa conservatives see it. And as long as that’s the case, that will make it harder for DeSantis to hoover up support from Scott and continue upward momentum that dates back to September.

Trump Posts His Weakest Support in Iowa This Year, Yet He Still Leads Handily

Share of potential Republican caucusgoers in Iowa who said they would vote for the following if the nominating contest were held in their state today:
Morning Consult Logo
Tracking of Vivek Ramaswamy’s candidacy began in late February 2023. Support for Asa Hutchinson, Chris Christie and Doug Burgum is not shown.
Surveys conducted monthly from December 2022 through November 2023 among unweighted samples of at least 181 potential Republican caucusgoers in Iowa, with unweighted margins of error of +/-5 to +/- 7 percentage points.

As for Trump, it’s a glass half-empty and half-full situation: His standing in Iowa in November was at its weakest point since our tracking began in December 2022.

While that sounds bad, the difference, of course, is that DeSantis no longer looks like the clear alternative. Trump’s 32-point lead over DeSantis remains far healthier than the 9-point edge we clocked a year ago. And after all, a month that saw DeSantis net two huge endorsements also saw Ramaswamy and Haley notch increases in support that eclipse his own gains.

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The big question heading into next month is whether Trump continues to trend downward in Iowa, which would probably require exceptional mobilization efforts by Reynolds and Vander Plaats, who are intent on dissuading Iowans from backing the former president.

However, even if Trump were to lose Iowa, our state-level tracking shows that in early calendar states Nevada and South Carolina, as well as in a number of Super Tuesday states and beyond, Trump’s lead is even larger. (To see the latest topline results from Morning Consult’s survey tracking of the Republican nominating contest in 26 states, download my State-Level GOP Primary Outlook here.)

As we saw in 2020 on the Democratic side of the aisle, results in the early calendar can flatter to deceive in terms of nomination outcomes, and Trump appears to have a rock-solid firewall in states that weigh in during the weeks that follow the Iowa caucuses.

For Trump to be in serious danger of losing the nomination after an Iowa loss, voters across the country would need to take their cues from the caucusgoers. Recent history suggests that won’t be the case.

A headshot photograph of Cameron Easley
Cameron Easley
Lead U.S. Politics Analyst

Cameron Easley is Morning Consult’s lead analyst for U.S. politics. Prior to moving into his current role, he led Morning Consult's editorial coverage of U.S. politics and elections from 2016 through 2022. Cameron joined Morning Consult from Roll Call, where he was managing editor. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Follow him on Twitter @cameron_easley. Interested in connecting with Cameron to discuss his analysis or for a media engagement or speaking opportunity? Email [email protected].

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