OnPolitics: Is Trump fading? DeSantis rising as 2024 prospect in USA TODAY/Suffolk poll

Good afternoon, OnPolitics readers! It's Politics Managing Editor Caren Bohan with a topic for conversation: Is DeSantis, not Trump, the future of the GOP?

A fresh poll in Donald Trump's home state of Florida is raising new questions about the strength of the former president's grip on the Republican party.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is emerging as an alternative to Trump for 2024 among GOP voters in the Sunshine state, according to a new USA TODAY Suffolk Poll, which finds DeSantis now leads Trump 48%-40% in a hypothetical presidential primary matchup. 

That's a big shift from the January survey which showed Trump ahead of the Florida governor, 47%-40%, reports USA TODAY Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page.

Though neither has officially announced a presidential run, Trump has long been presumed to be the GOP front-runner.

Trump is still outpacing DeSantis among Republican voters nationally. While the Suffolk poll showed DeSantis riding high in Florida, a nationwide Politico/Morning Consult poll Wednesday showed Trump got the backing 52% of respondents versus 19% for DeSantis.

Still, the results of the Suffolk poll in Florida are significant, given the outsized influence the populous state has in the presidential nominating process and the prominence of both men in the state.

Trumpism minus the baggage?

Lately, some in the GOP are gravitating toward DeSantis, a onetime Trump protege, as someone who could deliver Trumpism without Trump — and without the baggage of multiple investigations and legal entanglements.

Following in Trump's footsteps, DeSantis is increasingly making headlines as a top GOP culture warrior, most recently by sending 50 Venezuelan migrants by plane to Martha's Vineyard.

The move was decried on the left as a ploy and tantamount to human trafficking given that many of the migrants said they were misled, but the media coverage has only enhanced DeSantis' status with the Republican base.

It's also enabling him to shape his political image around hardline immigration policies, the way Trump did when he launched his first presidential campaign in 2015.

Now, could the teacher could be bested by the student, asks USA TODAY Politics Correspondent Candy Woodall.

"He's out-Trumping Trump," says Sean Freeder, assistant political science professor at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. 

Woodall noted that when Trump was president, he talked about transporting migrants from red states to blue states. 

"DeSantis is actually doing it," Freeder told Woodall. "While Trump continues his litigation of 2020, DeSantis is getting stuff done." 

💬 More big takeaways from the USA TODAY/Suffolk poll

🔍 Dig deeper: Why moving migrants is about 2024, not the gubernatorial race

It's Sarah Day Owen Wiskirchen, here with more top stories out of Washington:

Real quick: Stories that you'll want to read

  • Fewer candidates debating: It's less than eight weeks until Election Day, yet few debates are scheduled, even for key statewide contests in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. Here's why, analysts say.
  • Speaking of Trump's legal troubles: The New York attorney general filed a civil lawsuit against Donald Trump and three of his children, accusing them of fraud.
  • Biden speaks out against Russia: In his United Nations address, President Joe Biden said Russian attacks on schools, hospitals, rail stations "should make your blood run cold." Meanwhile, Putin is calling up reservists for 'partial' military mobilization.
  • Inflation and the economy are among the top issues for voters. Today the Federal Reserve increased interest rates again. What it could mean for this year and beyond.

⚖️ What's next On Politics: Reporter Ella Lee is following the trial of Capitol rioter Doug Jensen, one of the most high profile federal cases related to the Jan. 6 assault. Here's a recap of the first day.

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