Sirius XM host Megyn Kelly opened the 2024 Republican presidential debate by laying out the dire state of Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ current polling numbers.
DeSantis has continued to lead in second place and trail former President Donald Trump in the 2024 presidential primary polls. Trump is leading every other presidential candidate by around 50 points on average, and is seen by most to be the likely nominee.
During the Wednesday debate, Kelly pointed out that DeSantis’ campaign had spent the most money and was thought to appeal to the “non-Trump field.”
“But here we are, a month out from the first real votes, and you haven’t managed to do it. In fact, Nikki Haley is beating you in New Hampshire and South Carolina now, and closing in on you in Iowa, not to mention Trump, who is not only dominating in the early states, but is beating you in Florida by over 30 points,” Kelly said. “Is it fair to say as Senator Tim Scott did when he dropped out, that voters are telling you not no, but not now?”
“So we have a great idea in America that the voters actually make these decisions, not pundits or pollsters. I’m sick of hearing about these polls ’cause I remember those polls in November of 2022. They said there was gonna be a big red wave, it was gonna be monumental, and that crashed and burned,” the Florida governor said. “The one place it didn’t crash and burn was in the state of Florida. They weren’t predicting that I would win the way I did, and I won the greatest Republican victory in the history of the state of Florida. I’m looking forward to Iowa and New Hampshire, the voters are gonna be able to speak, and we’re gonna earn this nomination.”
DeSantis is in second place with 12.7% support, while Trump leads the race with 59.6%, according to FiveThirtyEight. Polls have found former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley to lead DeSantis in New Hampshire with 18% support, only standing behind Trump who garnered 49% support, according to an Emerson College poll. (RELATED: Another Poll Shows DeSantis With Massive Lead Over Trump)
DeSantis criticized his fellow Republicans for refusing to take a stand on certain issues, and called on them to “stand strong” and “be willing to beat these people.” He said he is the “only” person on the debate stage that had beaten the left on major issues.
He accused Haley of “caving” to the left and being unable to fight for Republican values.
Several preliminary polls found DeSantis to be the preferred nominee over Trump in the 2024 election, leading Trump to wage harsh attacks against the Florida governor. One poll from June 2022 found DeSantis narrowly leading Trump in New Hampshire with 39%-37% support, and another head-to-head survey found DeSantis leading Trump 57%-33% in a poll published in February.