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Who's supporting Trump, Christie and other 2024 Republicans? These voters are mapping out a path to victory

WASHINGTON − As the first primaries of the 2024 presidential race approach, Republican candidates are courting voters in crucial states, ramping up attacks against their foes and making their case to clinch the GOP nomination.

But their efforts may be in vain if they can't win over a wide range of voters.

Former President Donald Trump easily remains the front-runner in the crowded Republican field. But his rivals, such as former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, are still competing to see if they can make progress with crucial voting blocs, winning over voters of all age groups, incomes and other demographics.

Ahead of 2024, here's a look at which groups could lend their support to the leading Republican candidates − and who still needs to be wooed.

Donald Trump

Trump has long led the Republican primary, advancing in national and state polls despite not showing up to the Republican debates and spending much of his campaign time in the courtroom as he faces four sets of criminal charges.

But who is Trump winning over as he continues his reelection bid? A USA TODAY/Suffolk University October poll found the former president is doing best among older voters, particularly the 35-49 and 50-64 age groups. The poll also showed 68% of voters with an annual income of less than $50,000 support him.

Francis Wihbey, a 62-year-old car dealer based in Connecticut, told USA TODAY he liked how Trump handled the economy and foreign policy under his administration. They're issues Trump's supporters in New Hampshire also cited as they stick with the former president.

“He’ll create jobs, especially with energy, and he'll get world politics a little better under control,” Wihbey said.

When it comes to Trump’s personality, Wihbey argued, “he tells it like it is. He tells the truth.”

The real estate mogul is also winning support from more voters of color than any other candidate in the GOP primary, according to the USA TODAY October poll. Almost 60% of Republican Black voters and 53% of GOP Hispanic voters said they favored the former president.

A poll conducted and published by Univision in September also found that 50% of Hispanic registered Republican voters said they favor Trump.

However, Trump's recent claims that his criminal trials have helped spur support among Black voters are largely unsubstantiated. Though some surveys have shown an increase in support for Trump among Black respondents, the margin of error in these polls usually draws the claim into question.

Ron DeSantis

Since launching his presidential campaign in May, DeSantis has struggled to overcome Trump’s front-runner shadow. Heading into the fourth GOP primary debate, the Florida governor seems no closer to shaking his status as a backup choice.

Nearly every demographic of voter surveyed in USA TODAY/Suffolk University's October poll named DeSantis as their second choice in the Republican presidential primary election.

Of the voters whose first choice was Trump, 44% picked DeSantis as their runner-up.

But even this second-place position appears tenuous, as Haley continues to rise in polls, an increase partially sparked by her breakout debate performances.

The Florida governor had his own debate wins, including the first face-off in August, when DeSantis found outsized favor with young Republicans across the country. But that popularity may be waning as well.

DeSantis came in third, three points behind Haley, among voters 18 to 24 years old in last week's Messenger/Harris poll on the Republican field. Trump came in first, with 34% of young voters picking the former president.

Nikki Haley

Haley’s campaign has seen rising momentum in recent weeks, with positive polling showing the former governor pulling into second place in early-voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

But the road to the GOP nomination remains long for the former ambassador to the United Nations. Nationally, she is still jockeying with DeSantis for the spot as Trump’s top Republican rival and trailing the front-runner by more than 50 percentage points in some polls.

Up until this point, Haley’s campaign has been propelled by a base of highly educated middle- and upper-class voters.

The USA TODAY October poll found Haley performing best among those with some level of college education. She also notched twice as much support with voters earning over $100,000, compared with those in lower income brackets.

Spencer Kimball, director of polling at Emerson College, pointed to this group as a major driver pushing Haley ahead of DeSantis in recent surveys.

“Those with college degrees and postgraduate degrees within the Republican field are shifting away from DeSantis and over to Nikki Haley,” he told USA TODAY, noting that Haley has also attracted older supporters away from the DeSantis campaign in recent weeks.

But Haley could afford to win more support among Republican women, Kimball noted. A recent Emerson survey published in November found Haley’s base comprised by 70% men.

“As the only female in the field, you would think that maybe the female voters would gravitate toward her candidacy, and we have not seen that yet,” Kimball said. “It'll be interesting, as that plays out over the next couple of weeks and months, if she's able to grow a larger base of female supporters.”

The same could be said for Haley's support among Asian American voters. Though she's one of just two Indian Americans in the 2024 presidential race, along with businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, Haley is registering 23% favorability with Asian American and Pacific Islander adults, according to a recent poll conducted by AAPI Data and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That's compared to 27% favorability for Trump among the same population.

Vivek Ramaswamy

Though Ramaswamy, 38, entered the 2024 race as the youngest candidate and with no political experience, he has placed fourth in several national and state polls.

Ramaswamy has made noise in the race for the White House with controversial positions, such as opposing sending aid to Israel and Ukraine, raising the voting age to 25 and ending birthright citizenship. He told USA TODAY in July that he wants to take the "America first" agenda further than Trump did.

The October USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll found Ramaswamy performing best with voters who are white, not part of a union and those with an income of $140,000 or lower.

Margarite Goodenow, an 86-year-old retired food service worker and hospital dietician in Iowa, told USA TODAY Ramaswamy was a “gifted orator” and can explain policies clearly to supporters.

“The United States is a great big business, so I think it can't hurt and can be of great help for the chief executive to have some knowledge of business. In fact, a great deal of knowledge,” said Goodenow, who supported Trump in 2020.

But Ramaswamy still has some catching up to do.

The Messenger/HarrisX poll released last week found that when voters were asked whom they would choose if the Republican primary were held that day, Ramaswamy came in fifth with moderate voters. That could take a toll on his campaign as he struggles with these middle-of-the road Americans.

Much like with Haley, few Asian American voters polled by AAPI Data and The Associated Press knew enough about Ramaswamy to give their opinion of the presidential contender. Of those who did, only about 18% said they viewed the former biotech entrepreneur favorably heading into 2024.

Chris Christie

Chris Christie has tied his presidential hopes to New Hampshire, campaigning almost exclusively in the first-in-the-nation primary state. And while former New Jersey governor is polling third among likely Granite State voters, his strategy hasn’t translated to success on the national stage.

A RealClearPolitics average of national polls put Christie at a mere 2.5% earlier this week – well below other leading Republicans. And part of Christie's problem is that many of his supporters aren’t Republicans.

Gretchen Uhas, 73, of Lyndeborough, New Hampshire, is a lifelong Democrat. This year, she dropped her party affiliation so she could vote for Christie in the state’s primary.

“I want to vote for him and if he makes it, I won’t be voting Democrat in the general election,” Uhas told USA TODAY, noting that she likes Christie’s willingness to answer any question thrown his way.

She’s far from alone. The Messenger/Harris poll published last week found 28% of likely Christie supporters were either Democrats or Independents.

Christie’s voters, more than for any other candidate, also are ardently opposed to Trump. And many are fond of the former governor's frequent attacks against the businessman-turned-president.

When asked in USA TODAY’s October survey who they would back in a 2024 general election matchup between Trump, Biden and a third-party candidate, none of Christie’s likely supporters gave a nod to the former president.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Which voters support Trump, Christie and other 2024 Republicans?