DeSantis is crushing Trump among college-educated Republicans in Iowa. It's still not enough to win the caucuses.

DeSantis is crushing Trump among college-educated Republicans in Iowa. It's still not enough to win the caucuses.
Ron DeSantis (left) and Donald Trump (right).Scott Olson, Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has a double-digit lead among Iowa college-educated Republicans in a hypothetical matchup with Trump.
  • It's very unlikely that the GOP race will narrow to just the two candidates before the Iowa caucuses.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis holds a double-digit lead over former President Donald Trump among college-educated Republicans in a hypothetical one-on-one match-up in Iowa.

The bit of good news, however, is a perfect illustration of why DeSantis faces such long odds in the state, and arguably has struggled to cut into Trump's national lead.

According to a New York Times/Siena College poll, DeSantis has a 15-point lead among college-educated voters in the state if the race narrowed to just the two of them. Among the current field, Trump and DeSantis are tied a 26% among the demographic.

There simply aren't enough college-educated Republicans in Iowa. The group composes only 42% of the Iowa GOP electorate, per The Times. Even in the hypothetical showdown, Trump still leads DeSantis overall in the state by 16 points. Among the larger field, Trump's lead is 24 points over DeSantis.

As Atlantic senior editor Ronald Brownstein previously pointed out, part of DeSantis' national struggle is that there are not enough college-educated Republicans still in the party. Meanwhile, Trump continues to romp both in Iowa and nationally among Republicans without a college degree. Among the larger field in Iowa, Trump holds a 40-point lead over DeSantis. A national Times-Siena poll pegged Trump with a 49-point lead among the group.


If this sounds familiar, it's because it is. Trump's 2016 romp to the GOP presidential nomination saw him run up huge margins among voters without a college degree while he struggled among more educated Republicans.

Iowa, the home of the first-in-the-nation caucuses, looms large for DeSantis' campaign. A win there would shatter Trump's growing narrative of an inevitable general election rematch between Trump and President Joe Biden. No recent Republican has won the party's nomination without winning one of the early states. If it doesn't come together in Iowa, it's not currently clear how DeSantis would fare better in New Hampshire, Nevada, or South Carolina.

DeSantis is doing better in Iowa than nationally, but Trump's staying power is remarkable considering he has publicly criticized Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a popular incumbent among GOP voters. It's also very unlikely that the Florida governor will get a showdown with Trump to start off the GOP nomination race. No recent Iowa Republican caucuses that didn't feature an incumbent had such a small field.

The Times/Siena poll of 432 likely Iowa caucusgoers was conducted from July 28 to Aug. 1, 2023, before news broke of Trump's indictment for efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The margin of error for the entire sample +/- 5.9 percentage points.