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As with all things Donald Trump, last week's grand jury indictment has divided the country but it's given him a decided edge over fellow Floridian and looming rival Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to public opinion surveys.
A new Yahoo News/YouGov poll released Monday showed Trump widening the gap with DeSantis among Republicans, up to 26 percentage points. The poll conducted in the wake of a grand jury indictment against Trump had the former president leading the Sunshine State's governor by 57% to 31%.
A third of those polled, 33%, said they want another candidate to be the party's nominee. Previously, pollsters said Trump held a single-digit, 8 percentage point lead over DeSantis.
The boiling rivalry with DeSantis resulted in a surreal, near split screen moment on Monday. As national news networks carried video of Trump's private 757 as it prepared to depart Palm Beach International Airport, en route to face a criminal charges, Trump's Make America Great Again Inc. group ran an ad blasting DeSantis' record on Medicare.
What was not good news for Trump in the poll is that a plurality, 42%, said they agreed with his indictment, while 39% disagreed and were unsure of their position.
Those numbers were similar to an ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday that found that 45% of respondents agreed Trump should face criminal prosecution while 32% disagreed and 23% had yet to decide.
While 88% of Democrats asked supported the indictment, just 62% of Republicans approved. That last number, said Florida pollster Michael Binder, is key.
"Yes, the country is obviously divided," said Binder, faculty director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at the University of North Florida. "The parts that are interesting are what are the Republicans doing and are they feeling? Because that's where there is going to be a Republican primary."
In Florida, GOP support has been vocal and steadfast. Last week, state Republican Party chairman Christian Ziegler wrote on Twitter that Manhattan District Attorney Bragg was "weaponizing the justice system to indict a political opponent" and issued a call to "wrestle control of our country away from the Democrats seeking to destroy" the nation.
On Monday, however, Mindy Koch, the Palm Beach County Democratic Party chairwoman, noted that for all Trump's heated talk, he was on his way to turn himself in. Koch defended Bragg, saying he would "follow the letter of the law, no matter how many threats are made against him" or those working for him.
"We have faith in the American justice system and know that through this process, our democracy will be strengthened," she said in a statement.
Undecideds may be focus of Trump's Tuesday night address
The poll, and others that will surely follow, come on the heels of widespread Republican officialdom support for Trump and condemnation of Bragg, who has pursued the investigation of an alleged $130,000 hush-money payment to a porn star in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election.
The results of the poll were disseminated just as Trump's campaign said Sunday he would speak on Tuesday night following his return to Palm Beach from New York. Trump's appearance is widely believed to be an attempt to respond to the charges and convince the American people that he is, as he adamantly insisted, a victim of a political persecution.
On his way to Manhattan on Monday afternoon, Trump again blasted the impending charges writing on his Truth Social site: "WITCH HUNT, as our once great country is going to HELL!"
Kevin Wagner, a professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at Florida Atlantic University, said partisan viewpoints are not so telling because the support for Trump among Republicans is fairly "baked in," and those who have disdain for him aren't going "to be moved" in any direction.
"The interesting thing to look at is the sort of less-attentive voter, the more moderate voter that maybe doesn't get up every morning and immediately think about politics or watch a political show," he said. "It's interesting to see what their response is to the current situation, because that will tell us a lot about what the future elections might look like."
In fact, Wagner said the payoff for winning over the hearts of the undecided is generally higher than the return on trying to change the mind of someone who has arrived at a conclusion.
"It's much easier to persuade people who have not formed an opinion than it is to change an opinion that is already formed," Wagner said. "You want to control the messaging. That's an important part of any political campaign."
The challenge for Trump has been his heated rhetoric. In advance of last week's grand jury vote, Trump called Bragg "an animal" and said predicted "death" and "destruction" if he were charged with a crime. He then issued a post of two images that appeared to show him holding a baseball bat to Bragg's head in a meme that was criticized by his own attorney as ill-advised.
Wagner said the Trump's discourse presents a challenge even for the former president.
"It's tricky because there's a portion of the base that likes the aggressive language, and of course there is a significant number of voters that don't. To some degree, it's difficult line to walk, which is how to rally your base but not alienate voters that don't like language that is quite as aggressive. That can be tricky."
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Indictment splits country, but gives Trump wide lead over Ron DeSantis