Former President Donald Trump topped the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll for the 2024 GOP nomination by a wide margin at the conservative conference Saturday.
Trump won 62% support in the poll, which was announced shortly before he was scheduled to speak to the crowd gathered at the Gaylord in Fort Washington, Maryland.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis came in as second choice with 20% support. The third-place pick at 5% support was long-shot GOP candidate Perry Johnson, a businessman who attempted to run for governor in Michigan but was blocked from participating in the Republican primary.
Kari Lake, the Republican Arizona gubernatorial nominee in 2022, received the most support for vice presidential candidate with 20%. DeSantis received 14% support for the 2024 vice presidential nominee in the CPAC poll. Over 2,000 attendees completed the poll, organizers said.
Trump easily won the 2024 GOP presidential nomination straw polls at major CPAC gatherings in Orlando, Florida and Dallas, Texas last year. The former president, who launched his 2024 bid last November and who remains the most popular and influential politician in the GOP more than two years after leaving the White House, captured 69% of ballots cast in the anonymous online straw poll last August in Dallas and 59% in Orlando last February.
The former president’s strong performances in CPAC’s unscientific survey comes as no surprise. The conference, long the largest and most influential gathering of conservative leaders and activists, has become a Trumpfest since his 2016 presidential election victory.
DeSantis was a distant second in the Dallas straw poll, at 24%, and grabbed 28% support in Orlando. Everyone else in the actual and potential field of 2024 GOP presidential candidates were in the low single digits or failed to crack one percent.
Florida’s governor, a former congressman, saw his popularity soar among conservatives across the country the past three years due to his forceful pushback against coronavirus pandemic restrictions and his aggressive actions as a conservative culture warrior going after media, corporations and teachers’ unions.
DeSantis is widely expected by political pundits to launch a Republican White House run later this year even though he currently remains on the 2024 sidelines. DeSantis last year routinely dismissed talk of a 2024 White House run, but he’s dropped plenty of hints of a possible presidential bid since his 19-point gubernatorial re-election victory last November. Sources in DeSantis’ wider orbit say any presidential campaign launch would come in the late spring or early summer, after the end of Florida’s current legislative session.
DeSantis, who addressed the CPAC crowd last February in Orlando, didn’t speak at this year’s confab. Instead, the Florida governor on Thursday night headlined the first evening of a three-day conference in Palm Beach, Florida hosted by the politically active fiscal conservative group the Club for Growth, which drew roughly 120 of the top donors in the GOP. On Friday DeSantis was at political and donor events in Texas before heading to California over the weekend.
Trump, who headlines Saturday’s final day of CPAC, wasn’t invited to the Club for Growth donor retreat. Two other declared candidates – former ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and entrepreneur and author and conservative political commentator Vivek Ramaswamy spoke at CPAC and at the donor retreat in Palm Beach. So did conservative firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who was runner up to Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential nomination race and who’s mulled a 2024 White House run but who’s currently concentrating on his Senate re-election next year.
Among the other likely 2024 GOP presidential hopefuls, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the crowed at CPAC but didn’t attend the donor retreat. And former Vice President Mike Pence and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu weren’t at CPAC but spoke at the Club for Growth retreat on Friday. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who’s also making moves towards a likely White House run, is the featured speaker in Palm Beach on Saturday night.