The GOP presidential primary has a long way to go before a candidate is decided. But one emerged as the clear winner of the first debate Wednesday night: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
A liberal coalition that included FiveThirtyEight.com, The Washington Post, and the pollster Ipsos reported that Republican voters made DeSantis their choice as the best performer.
The outcome was based on a survey of 775 voters who were questioned about their expectations before the event and then rated the candidates after it was over.
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Headed into the event, DeSantis, Sen. Tim Scott, former ambassador Nikki Haley and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy were expected to do the best.
Once it was over, according to FiveThirtyEight.com, “DeSantis received the highest average grade for his performance, followed closely by Haley and Ramaswamy.”
Overall, 29% of respondents said DeSantis performed best, followed by Ramaswamy at 26% and Haley with 15%.
At the opposite end, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was identified as the worst debater, by 22% of respondents.
DeSantis also overtook former President Donald Trump among voters who were asked whom they would support before and after the debate.
For instance, 63% of respondents said they would consider voting for DeSantis before the debate; afterward, his share grew to 67.5%, which put him on top.
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Trump, who blew off the debate, actually went backward. Before the event, 66.2% of respondents said they were considering him. Yet once it was over, he dropped to 61.4%.
With his debate showing, the Florida governor also increased his net favorability rating from plus-41 points to plus-48 points.
DeSantis led the pack among debate-watchers, posting a 72.4% favorability rating. Haley and Scott were close behind, at 65.5% and 65.3%, respectively.
Yet Haley posted the biggest gain in voter consideration.
With her performance, Haley jumped from 30.2% to 46.7%, a 16.5-point spike, when voters were asked if the debate caused them to consider voting for her.
Following Haley in this regard were North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who rose 7.6 points, and Ramaswamy, who increased 5.5 points, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.
When asked about who performed the worst, voters responded that Christie ran away with that honor, at 22%, followed by former Vice President Mike Pence, with 13%.
FiveThirtyEight.com noted that they spoke more than any of the other candidates.
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