The GOP Presidential Primary season is heating up, with the Iowa Caucuses just over four months away. In the aftermath of the inaugural debate, candidates will set their sights on steering their campaigns in a positive direction, with the goal of making gains in subsequent polling. Several compelling storylines have taken center stage in the weeks preceding the inaugural debate. Let us delve into these narratives to better understand their implications.
Trump Enjoys Firm Grasp on Republican Primary
Former President Donald Trump was polling as low as 45% in national polls earlier this year, but he has steadily gained and is up to 58% support as of August 20th. Although he’s not leading by as much in some early primary states, where other candidates have grabbed the spotlight, he’s still the clear front-runner in crucial states like Iowa and New Hampshire. His strong polling led him to skip the first debate, a risky strategy. While skipping the debate allowed other candidates to enjoy the spotlight and increase their name recognition, Trump will stay above the fray, making it harder for others to directly challenge him.
Upstart Vivek Ramaswamy Begins to Introduce Himself to America
Previously unknown entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy did not reach 2% nationally until mid-April, but he has stormed onto the national stage and is beginning to challenge Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for second in national polling averages. While his limited spending in Iowa and New Hampshire suggests he may not make a big impact in January, his strong national poll numbers could position him as a serious contender for the nomination and secure his role in future GOP politics. Given his vigorous defense of Trump, he may find it awkward to take him on for the nomination and surge past the former President, but at this point, that is a problem for later.
Ron DeSantis’s Waning Status as the Unambiguous Alternative to Trump
In the campaign’s early stages, DeSantis enjoyed robust support in national polling, generally around ~30%. He was much closer to Trump than anyone else in the field, quadrupling his closest competition for second place. DeSantis is over 40% behind Trump for first place and just 4% ahead of Ramaswamy for second place in national polling. He’ll need to increase his polling before primaries start, and Iowa will be a critical contest for him since he was only trailing Trump by 23% in a recent Des Moines Register poll.