Ron DeSantis has lost his grip on second place in the Republican presidential primary in New Hampshire, a new poll said on Tuesday.

Donald Trump enjoyed a 40-point lead in the survey, from Emerson College Polling. That was broadly in line with the 91-times indicted former president’s leads in most national and early voting state polls.

But in New Hampshire, according to Emerson at least, the former president and potential future felon has a new closest challenger.

Chris Christie, a former New Jersey governor and former Trump friend and ally, was second with 9% support, a point ahead of DeSantis, the Florida governor whose campaign is widely seen to be tanking.

“DeSantis has been the alternative to Trump in Emerson polling this presidential cycle,” said Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College Polling. “This is the first time we have seen DeSantis drop out of second place in our polling, and fall back into the pack of candidates.”

Christie endorsed Trump in 2016, took a role planning his transition and stayed supportive throughout the chaotic presidency that followed.

Finally splitting from Trump over his election subversion and incitement of the January 6 attack on Congress, the former governor has built his second presidential campaign on taking on Trump, using his blunt and hard-nosed style to slam the former president while demanding the party move on.

New Hampshire offers Christie his best chance to make an impact on the primary, staging its vote second on the calendar, after Iowa.

DeSantis generally maintains second place to Trump there, the governor’s aides bullish about his chances with evangelical voters.

The first debate of the Republican primary, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a little more than a week away. Christie has qualified to appear, promising fireworks, although it remains unclear if Trump will show up to take part.

Contestants are supposed to promise to support the eventual nominee, whoever he or she may be. Last week, Christie told ABC he had not yet been given a pledge to sign.

Asked if he thought the pledge should include a “little caveat”, saying loyalty would not be required if the nominee were a convicted felon, Christie said: “Who knows? Maybe it will … We’ll see how it develops over the next week or so.”

Two days later, Trump was hit with 13 criminal charges in Georgia, over his election subversion there. He now faces four criminal trials (two over election subversion and one each over hush-money payments and retention of classified information) and one civil trial (a defamation case brought by the writer E Jean Carroll, who accuses him of rape), all scheduled during the primary race.

In the Emerson New Hampshire poll, the South Carolina senator Tim Scott was fourth on 6%, two points behind DeSantis, with the North Dakota governor, Doug Burgum, and the former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, next on 4% each. Mike Pence, Trump’s former vice-president, was back in a pack of candidates on 1%.

The poll also asked New Hampshire voters about a hypothetical general election. Joe Biden led Trump by seven points, 48%-41%, up three points since March.

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