Donald Trump is named the real winner of the debate over DeSantis in Daily Mail ... trends now
An absent Donald Trump was the real winner of the third Republican presidential debate and made the right decision not to attend an event watched by a dwindling audience, an exclusive DailyMail.com poll reveals.
Viewers may have given Ron DeSantis top marks for his performance during his battle with closest rival Nikki Haley in the Miami showdown on Wednesday.
But Republicans still believe Trump came out victorious - even though he was holding a rally a 30-minute drive away.
The results also affirm that the debates are of little consequence if the Republican kingmaker isn't on the stage, especially with viewing figures plummeting.
An average of 7.51 million tuned into NBC on Wednesday night, compared to almost 13 million who watched the first debate on Fox News and 9.5 million who watched the second on Fox Business.
An absent Donald Trump was the real winner of the third Republican presidential debate and made the right decision not to attend again, an exclusive DailyMail.com poll reveals. The third debate also attracted almost 50% fewer viewers than the first
Currently, the five other candidates in the race are scrapping it out for a distant second place.
If the field narrows, one of them could close the gap with Trump in the battle to get on the ticket, but time is running out.
J.L. Partners asked 544 viewers who was the real winner in a poll conducted just hours after the debate.
Thirty percent said Trump came out on top, followed by 20 percent for Ron DeSantis and 19 percent for Vivek Ramaswamy.
Nikki Haley received 13 percent, while Tim Scott and Chris Christie came at the bottom of the pile with six and five percent, respectively.
When asked if Trump made the right decision to stay away, 64 percent said yes, and 29 percent said no. Eight percent said they 'don't know'.
'He was down the street, doing something else entirely. But Donald Trump didn’t need to be at the debate to win it,' James Johnson, founder of J.L. Partners