Donald Trump may have declared that “America’s comeback starts right now”, but the latest polls paint a questionable picture of his divisive re-election bid.
The Republican Party’s lacklustre performance in the midterms and the failure of a string of Trump-endorsed candidates has many wondering if the former president is the right leader to challenge for the White House in 2024.
His former vice president, Mike Pence, has suggested there will be “better choices” for Republican voters and Florida’s Ron DeSantis is getting a lot of attention as a potential challenger.
Mr Trump remains a deeply polarising figure. Indeed, 54% of voters in last week’s midterm elections viewed him very or somewhat unfavourably, according to the Associated Press VoteCast survey of more than 94,000 Americans.
And an October AP-NORC poll found even Republicans have their reservations about him remaining the party’s standard-bearer, with 43% saying they don’t want to see him run for president in 2024.
Will Florida’s ‘Trump 2.0’ stand against the ex-president?
Sunshine State governor Mr DeSantis was re-elected with nearly 60% of the vote last week and has been seen in the past as the heir to Mr Trump.
More on Donald Trump
Donald Trump is running for president… again!
Trump says he’s back to ‘make America great again’ – now prepare for the mother of all fights
US midterms are a very unreliable way of predicting the next president
- Donald Trump
- Ron DeSantis
Some Republican commentators and media outlets have called Mr DeSantis “Trump 2.0” as he appeals to hard-right conservatives.
Mr DeSantis has surged to huge leads over Mr Trump in a string of recent polls of likely voters sponsored by the Republican Party-affiliated Club for Growth Action.
The state primary polls have shown Mr DeSantis beating Mr Trump by between 11 (Iowa) and 26 (Florida) percentage points, with strong leads also in Georgia and New Hampshire.
Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player
Trump’s back – now prepare for the mother of all fights
Hello ‘DeFuture’? US right-wing media looks ready for a new era
The former president has christened his possible challenger “Ron DeSanctimonious” and Mr DeSantis has fired back as the feud grows between the once-close pair.
In a lengthy statement, Mr Trump called Mr DeSantis an “average REPUBLICAN governor with great Public Relations,” and voiced fury that he had not publicly ruled out challenging him.
When asked about the comments, Mr DeSantis said it was all “just noise”.
“I would just tell people to go check out the scoreboard from last Tuesday night,” said Mr DeSantis, referring to the midterms.
He called his resounding win in the race for governor “the greatest Republican victory in the history of the state of Florida”.
‘Better choices’ than Trump, says his former deputy
While some Republicans with presidential ambitions have long ruled out running against Trump, former vice president Mike Pence is another who has taken increasingly public steps toward a campaign of his own.
In a recent interview, Mr Pence told the New York Times that he was angered by Mr Trump’s conduct on and before January 6, 2021 – the day of the US Capitol riots – but stopped short of attacking his character.
He declined to say whether Mr Trump should be elected again, but added: “I think we’ll have better choices.”