California Republicans’ support for former President Donald Trump appears to be growing, according to a new poll — and that’s a particularly positive sign for his campaign given how the state will assign its bevy of delegates this year.
Trump is the preferred candidate for 55% of likely Republican voters surveyed in late August by the Berkeley Institute of Government Studies — taken after he was indicted in Georgia for alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
That’s an 11% increase from Berkeley IGS’s May survey — and would trigger the California Republican Party’s new rule allotting all of its 169 delegates to whichever candidate can secure a majority (50% plus 1) of the statewide vote in the upcoming primary election.
In comparison, 16% of likely Republican voters picked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, 7% former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and 4% tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
A February Berekely IGS poll found 37% of registered Republican voters preferred DeSantis while 29% preferred Trump.
“Even with all of his legal troubles, former President Donald Trump’s lead in the Republican primary looks more like what one expects to see from an incumbent running for reelection than for a candidate in an open seat,” said IGS co-director Eric Schickler. “While it remains early, it has to frustrate Trump’s opponents that his lead has grown even amid his series of indictments.”
Dan Schnur, who teaches political messaging at USC and UC Berkeley, says the poll shows good news for Trump — as long as he can maintain that support among California’s GOP voters during the March 5 primary.
“The state party clearly did this to help him, but now Iowa and New Hampshire are even more important,” said Schnur, noting the momentum from winning those early primary states coupled with California’s delegates would make Trump “unstoppable.”
CAGOP changed its rules in late July. If no contender can secure a majority, then the delegates — the most from any state — will be distributed proportionally. Previously, candidates could win three delegates per congressional district, which could lead them to focus on certain pockets of the state.
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The change, CAGOP Chair Jessica Millan Patterson said at the time, encourages Republican candidates “to spend real time campaigning in our state and making their case to voters.”
Still, the change was largely seen as a boon to Trump’s quest to return to the White House.
Meanwhile, the Berkeley IGS poll also found President Joe Biden holding a substantial lead over challengers Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Marianne Williamson among both likely Democratic and no party preference voters.
And while Biden holds a 51% to 31% lead over Trump, the survey found 24% of registered voters are “very open” to a potential third party candidate in a Biden-Trump matchup, 23% are “somewhat open” and 17% said it would depend on who the candidate is.
Trump, along with many other presidential contenders, plans to head to Southern California later this month.
The Republican National Committee is holding the second GOP presidential primary debate on Sept. 27 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley — albeit, it’s not clear if Trump will participate. He skipped the first debate and criticized the presidential library as the venue because the longtime board chair, Frederick Ryan Jr., was the publisher of the Washington Post. (In June, Ryan said he was leaving the Washington Post to lead the new Center on Public Civility at the Reagan Foundation.)
On Sept. 29, Trump and other candidates are slated to speak at the CAGOP fall convention in Anaheim. DeSantis and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott are also scheduled to appear that Friday; Ramaswamy is expected the next day.