"Better than President Trump": DeSantis's clout swells in the west

That straw poll comes on the heels of DeSantis also running neck-and-neck with Trump in a new University of Nevada, Reno survey asking voters in the state to rate potential 2024 candidates. DeSantis received the highest favorability score of any Republican with all voters — 48 percent compared to Trump’s 42 percent — but was bested by Trump, 73-69, when just Republicans were counted.

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“There is no real party standard-bearer at the moment, and DeSantis in many eyes is starting to define the post-Trump party,” said Tyler Sandberg, a veteran Republican GOP operative, based in Colorado. “He fights more about policy and less on his Twitter account.”

DeSantis’ rising popularity in the region coincides with his ascent nationally with conservatives initially drawn to him because he largely kept Florida’s economy open during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. But topping Trump two years in a row at an event dubbed “the largest gathering of conservatives in the Western United States” highlights his growing reputation with Republicans in that part of the country.

“It did not surprise me that DeSantis did well, but, yeah, it kind of surprised me that he did better than President Trump, again,” said Dick Wadhams, a veteran Colorado Republican consultant and former chair of that state’s Republican Party. “I go to a lot of Republican events and have sensed for some time that even with Republicans DeSantis has quite an appeal because of his success as governor of Florida.”

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