Big endorsements haven’t moved the needle for Trump’s rivals in Iowa, poll finds

Republican politicians and organizations opposed to former President Donald Trump have delivered high-profile endorsements of other candidates over the past month in efforts to change the race for the GOP presidential nomination.

But those endorsements haven’t moved the needle politically in Iowa, according to the new NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll of the state.

At least not yet.

In addition to showing Trump with more than a 30-point lead over his nearest competition, the poll finds majorities of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers saying the endorsements don’t affect how they will vote in the Jan. 15 contest.

Fifty-four percent of likely GOP caucusgoers say Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ endorsement of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis doesn’t matter to their vote choices.

That compares with 31% who say her endorsement makes them more likely to vote for DeSantis — higher than DeSantis’ current level of caucus support but still not enough to catch Trump — and 14% who say it makes them less likely to support him.

After he received Reynolds’ endorsement in early November, DeSantis got 19% support among likely Iowa caucusgoers in the new survey, slightly more than the 16% he had in October — within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. Trump, by comparison, went from 43% in October to 51% in November.

Meanwhile, 73% of likely caucusgoers say Iowa evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats’ endorsement of DeSantis doesn’t matter to them.

And 71% say Americans for Prosperity’s endorsement of former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley doesn’t matter to their vote choices. (Americans for Prosperity is the political arm of the conservative Koch political network.)

“These endorsements didn’t hurt Trump,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, who conducted the NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom survey.

Poll respondent Mckray Smalley, 34, of Sheffield, says he remains undecided between Trump and DeSantis, though might be leaning more in Trump’s direction. 

Still, Smalley says, Reynolds’ endorsement of DeSantis doesn’t matter to him. 

“I don’t care who endorses who,” he said. “I make up my own decision.”

Diana Arter, 74, of Waterloo, agrees. “I have to make up my own mind who I think will do a better job and hope and pray that I make the right decision,” said Arter, who also is deciding between Trump and DeSantis.

Even though Reynolds’ endorsement doesn’t matter to a majority of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers, it hasn’t backfired on her, either.

In the poll, 78% of likely caucusgoers have favorable views of Reynolds, compared with 20% who have unfavorable views.

That’s essentially unchanged from August’s NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll, when Reynolds’ rating was 81% favorable, 18% unfavorable.

“She is wonderful,” said Gaylord Victora, 69, of Ames.

“But I want the candidate to stand on their own,” Victora added, explaining why Reynolds’ endorsement of DeSantis hasn’t influenced his vote.

The NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll of 502 likely Republican caucusgoers was conducted Dec. 2-7 and has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.