By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Both former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would defeat Democratic President Joe Biden in Nevada if the 2024 election were held today, according to polling done for Nevada Newsmakers.
DeSantis would beat Biden in a hypothetical race, 46.31 percent to 36.13 percent while Trump outpolled Biden 48.48 percent to 40.13.
“It doesn’t surprise me that they are both beating Biden in the polls,” said conservative campaign consultant Chuck Muth of Las Vegas. “But let’s face it. We’re still far out (from the election). Neither Trump nor DeSantis are running against Biden now. They are running against each other.”
Trump has officially declared his intention to seek a return to the presidency. DeSantis has not declared his intentions but has been unofficially traveling around the nation.
The poll, conducted by Vote TXT, based in Texas, polled 412 Nevada voters during the week of May 15. The poll has 4.83 margin of error.
About 29 percent of the respondents were Republicans with an equal number of Democrats.
About 16 percent identified as members of the Independent American Party, which is often mistaken for non-partisan but is a conservative party. Thirteen percent of responders said they were non-partisan.
“It’s not uncommon for the sitting incumbent to take the brunt of voter dissatisfaction with government and the economy,” Vote TXT pollster Bryan Bedera said. “Republican leaders in Congress are using every opportunity to draw contrast between leadership styles, and closer to home, Nevada’s economy is weaker than much of the country.”
Nevada’s 5.5 percent unemployment rate (5.7 in Las Vegas and 4.4 in Reno) is the highest in the nation, according to an April 23 release by the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.
“President Biden is going to have to defend his reelection to voters when Nevada has the highest unemployment in the nation and has a significant affordable housing problem,” Bedera said.
The Democratic candidate, however, has won Nevada in every presidential election since 2008 and the polling here may be premature, said Fred Lokken, head of the political science department at Truckee Meadows Community College.
“I know we’re just testing the waters here but it doesn’t seem in sync with the patterns of realities in Nevada for the last 16 years,” Lokken said.
“There are too many uncertainties,” Lokken said. “We’re still more than a year out. No one really knows what DeSantis stands for.”
Lokken, a former Republican who is now registered as a non-partisan voter, expects a large Democratic turnout for the next presidential election.
“Democrats will be more motivated to vote in 2024,” he said. “The Democrats are going to be motivated by abortion, gun issues, assault weapons.
“What will Republicans be motivated by?” Lokken continued. “Nevada is an abortion state and Republicans are not as motivated by those issues as they are in other states. So what is the incentive that brings the Republicans out?”
The poll gave Biden a 33.42 approval percentage with 12.20 percent saying they strongly approved of his performance and 21.22 saying they approved of the sitting President.
More than half of the respondents (51.22) said they strongly disapproved of Biden and 10 percent said they disapproved, for a total disapproval percentage of 61.22 percent.
“I think it would be a close race,” Lokken said about a Trump-Biden rematch in Nevada. “I don’t think there is any reason to believe the numbers about DeSantis.”
Although recent history favors the Democratic presidential candidate in Nevada, the election last November of Republican Joe Lombardo as governor perhaps signals a Republican rebound in the Silver State, Muth said.
“I think the bellwether was Joe Lombardo getting elected in November,” Muth said. “I think it showed people that you can vote for a Republican who doesn’t have to be a crazy out there, like a (secretary of state candidate) Jim Marchant. I think that is helping Republicans across the board in this state.”
Lokken called the Newsmakers/Vote TXT findings “a poll on personality.”
He added: “Most of the voters in Nevada do vote on issues and not on personality. There are some exceptions. I think Obama’s personality really dominated in elections in 2008 and 2012. But most of the time, there are several concerns about the national economy. And we don’t even react to immigration in the way other states do. We have to get closer (to the election date) to know what the driving issues will be.”
Trump rolls over DeSantis
Trump swamped DeSantis when respondents were asked who they would vote for if Nevada’s 2024 Republican presidential caucus were held today.
More than 50 percent of those who responded (50.89) said they would vote for Trump while 20.54 percent said they would vote for DeSantis.
More than 11 percent said they were undecided as “undecided” outpolled Nikki Hailey (5.36 percent), Mike Pence (1.79) and Vivek Ramaswamy (2.68).
“As of now, Trump has the advantage with a substantial lead in name identification and campaign infrastructure,” Bedera said. “He has been talking to his voters consistently for nearly eight years, and that puts him so far ahead of anyone else in the race. They may not be able to catch him, especially if it appears Trump is impervious to negative attacks on his character.”
Trump could win Nevada in 2024, Muth said.
“I think Nevada is still in play,” Muth said. “I still think Trump could have won the last time, should have won the last time.
“I don’t blame that on election fraud,” Muth continued. “I think it was just campaign mistakes. I just think they ran the same campaign in Nevada that they run in red states and in Nevada, you can’t do that. We are a purple state and you just gotta accept that reality.”
Trump’s high negatives
Trump still has high negatives in Nevada, according to the poll, as 45.37 percent said they strongly disprove of him and only 20 percent said they strongly approved.
However, 58.99 percent said the verdict against Trump in the sexual abuse case of E. Jean Carroll did not change their opinion of him. Also,16 percent said the E. Jean Carroll case either greatly increased or simply increased their support for the nation’s 45th President.
“There is a Teflon nature to his existence,” Lokken said. “The Access Hollywood tape was right in the cycle of the (2016) election and it didn’t seem to have an impact, although they (Trump campaign) did pivot very quickly and it became a distraction.
“But what he said was horrific for a candidate for elected office and he has had about 27 (sexual) accusers with 10 or 12 still in the mix and it just doesn’t seem to matter,” Lokken said.
The polling shows, “there is little the former President can do that would surprise the voters,” Bedera said. “This survey data shows us that people are committed to their support, or opposition, of Donald Trump, regardless of his actions.
“We see this a lot with well-known national candidates; their positives and negatives tend to lock in firmly and early,” Bedera continued. “It’s going to be a competition between the campaigns to turn out their voters.”
When asked what political party they would support in a hypothetical statewide race in 2024, 48.35 said they would support Republicans while 30.79 said they would support Democrats. About 20 percent said they were undecided.
When asked if they planned to vote in 2024, 82.89 percent said it was very likely they would vote while 1.88 percent said it was very unlikely they would vote.