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Trump improves lead over Republican primary rivals after mugshot release

Donald Trump extended his lead over his Republican nomination rivals in a series of polls conducted since the release of his mugshot in Fulton county after he surrendered on charges that he conspired to subvert the 2020 election in Georgia and his absence from the first GOP primary debate.

The former US president held commanding advantages across the board in recent surveys done for the Trump campaign and for Morning Consult, leading his nearest challenger, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, in the overall race, in a head-to-head matchup, and in favorability ratings.

That outcome has been a trend for Trump who has seen polling and fundraising boosts with each indictment this year – in the hush-money case in New York, in the classified documents case in Florida, and in the federal 2020 election subversion case in Washington.

It also suggests that some of DeSantis’s principal campaign arguments – that he is more electable than Trump – have failed to cut through with likely Republican voters even after he had the opportunity to establish himself last week in Trump’s absence on the debate stage.

The polling commissioned and touted by the Trump campaign in the days after Trump surrendered at the Fulton county jail suggests the release of his mugshot that underscored his legal jeopardy and skipping the first GOP debate has not weakened him among likely Republican primary voters.

Overall, Trump polled at 58% compared with DeSantis at 13% among roughly 2,700 likely Republican primary voters surveyed by Coefficient, improving his lead by three points since the start of the month. No other candidate topped 10%.

The Trump campaign polling was consistent with a Morning Consult poll which found Trump’s lead unshaken in the immediate aftermath of the release of his mugshot and the first Republican primary debate, with Trump at 58%, DeSantis at 14% and no other candidate again above 10%.

The survey found that even if all the other candidates withdrew for a unified opposition against Trump, the former president would win the hypothetical head-to-head race against DeSantis by almost a two-to-one margin, 62% to 23%.

Notably, in the days after Trump’s surrender in Fulton county, the share of voters who believed Trump is guilty of the charges dropped by 11%, while the share of voters who believed Trump was being indicted as part of an effort to stop him running for president held at 74%.

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The survey comes less than six months before the first 2024 primary contest and the political landscape for Trump could still change as he spends more time in courtrooms across the country and off the campaign trail.

On Monday, the federal judge presiding over the special counsel prosecution of Trump over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, scheduled the trial to commence on 4 March 2024, one day before Super Tuesday, when 15 states are scheduled to hold Republican primaries or caucuses.

Both Trump and DeSantis are viewed favorably among likely Republican primary voters, 75% to 62%. But the intensity of the approval split for Trump, as 54% held a “very favorable” opinion for the former president compared with 19% for DeSantis.

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