Former President Donald Trump’s rivals have their work cut out for them when it comes to convincing Republican voters that he is not the party’s best bet to flip the White House next year.
A Monmouth University survey released Tuesday found a majority of GOP primary voters — 45% “definitely” and 18% “probably” — say Mr. Trump is the strongest candidate the party can field against President Biden in the 2024 election.
“If your main argument to Republican voters is that Trump wouldn’t be the party’s strongest nominee, you’ve got a heck of a challenge ahead of you,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who launched his campaign last week, is viewed at least early on as the strongest rival hoping to beat Mr. Trump. Mr. DeSantis this week is traveling to the early primary states to start making the case to voters that he is better-liked and more electable than Mr. Trump.
The Monmouth poll found 43% of GOP-aligned voters would like to see Mr. Trump as the Republican nominee for president, which marks a jump from 33% in February and 26% in December.
On the flip side, 19% of respondents said they want Mr. DeSantis as the party’s standard-bearer, marking a slide from 39% in December, 33% in February and 27% in March.
“If your message to voters who support Trump is he cannot win, you are going to hit a brick wall,” Mr. Murray said. “Even if you eat into the group who thinks he is only ‘probably’ the strongest candidate, you may still not capture enough of the Republican electorate to overcome Trump’s hardcore base support.”
Mr. Trump also leads Mr. DeSantis by a 56% to 35% margin in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup. In February, Mr. DeSantis held a 53% to 40% lead over Mr. Trump.
“DeSantis lost ground even before he got out of the starting gate,” Mr. Murray said. “Republican voters still like him, but they haven’t heard a convincing case for why he would be the party’s best option.”
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone and online from May 18 to 24, and included 655 Republican and Republican-leaning voters. The poll has a 5.5% margin of error.