Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Who Is the Current GOP Runner-Up?

Notwithstanding the polling trends we describe above, not to mention the pressure on the GOP to push the eject button, Donald Trump appears to have the Republican presidential nomination all sewn up. That certainly could change, based on both known unknowns and unknown unknowns, but there's no basis, right now, for predicting that it will change. Under these circumstances, the horse race to be the #2 Republican candidate is just the race to be the first runner-up.

At the moment, the candidate who occupies that slot is Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). But maybe not for long. After his triumphant reelection, it seemed to many that DeSantis had a real chance to dethrone Trump as the GOP champion, and at very least that he was guaranteed to finish second, ostensibly giving the Governor the inside track at the 2028 Republican nomination. Since then, of course, DeSantis has run a historically bad presidential campaign, while revealing himself to have lots of negative personality traits and few positive ones. So, he's slipped badly.

In fact, DeSantis has slipped badly enough that one of his Republican rivals is now nipping at his heels for the #2 slot in the race. That person is... Vivek Ramaswamy. For a number of reasons, Ramaswamy is not electable, particularly as a brown man in a white man's party (sorry, Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC!). However, he's actually done a far better job than DeSantis of setting himself up as a Trump clone. And between DeSantis' failures and Ramaswamy's successes, there have been multiple horse race polls this month that have Ramaswamy ahead of DeSantis. This one, from Scott Rasmussen, has Ramaswamy at 13% support and DeSantis at 8% support. This one, from Kaplan Strategies, and this one, from Cygnal, both have Ramaswamy at 11% and DeSantis at 10%.

Note that most polls still have DeSantis ahead of Ramaswamy, and that the FiveThirtyEight polling average has DeSantis up about 8% on average (15.0% to 7.2%), as does the RCP polling average (14.8% to 6.7%). That said, both polling averages include multiple months of polls, so they tend to adjust only very slowly to new developments. Also, poll-watchers across the country have noted something interesting when it comes to Ramaswamy polling: He does way better in Internet polls than he does in telephone polls. On average, it's 5 points better, which is a huge number when we're dealing with someone who's only polling between 5% and 15%.

There are a couple of theories floating around as to why there's such a disparity in Ramaswamy's polling. One of those is that, since he is young, non-white and a Silicon Valley guy, "his people" are overrepresented in online samples and underrepresented in phone samples. The other is that in telephone polls, the respondent has to say the name of the candidate they favor. Since "Ramaswamy" is long and foreign, goes the supposition, it may be hard for some respondents to say properly, and they may switch to an easier name to avoid embarrassment. We don't love either of these explanations, though we also don't have any better ideas to offer.

In any event, this item has two points to it, and neither of them is "Vivek Ramaswamy might just become a serious presidential candidate." That's not happening. No, the first point is that Ron DeSantis' star has fallen so far, so fast, that he's now having trouble staying ahead of a guy who's never run for office and who nobody had heard of 6 months ago. And the second point is that we continue to be in a tricky era for polling, and there are clearly some accuracy issues that have yet to be resolved. (Z)

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