A straw poll of conservatives revealed on Saturday that Donald Trump is strengthening his grip on the party grassroots, but also found that Gavin Newsom is viewed by many as the likely Democratic runner in 2024.
Only eight percent of attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas Texas thought that President Joe Biden will be on the ticket.
In contrast, 37 percent said they believed the California governor – who has been dinging Republican governors in Texas and Florida with newspaper and TV ads – will win the Democratic nomination.
‘You’re saying it’s going to be Gavin Newsom,’ said pollster Jim McLaughlin to the crowd.
‘What jumps out at me? Only eight percent think it’s gonna be Joe Biden.’
The White House has repeatedly said that Biden plans to run for a second term, despite misgivings among many in his party who think at age 82 he would be too old for another inauguration.
Less surprising was that the overwhelmingly hard right crowd plumped for Trump as the Republican nominee. He won 69 percent to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ 24 percent.
Conservatives at CPAC Texas see a 2024 election being fought between California Gov. Gavin Newsom and former President Donald Trump
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was the second most popular Republican candidate in the straw poll
Conservatives release the results of their straw poll at CPAC Texas on Saturday. If Trump does not run, DeSantis would be their overwhelming choice
Last time around, in Florida in February, Trump’s lead was narrower – 59 to 28 – probably reflecting that the poll was in DeSantis’ home state.
‘So you know how the mainstream media has been telling us his you know, influence in the party is waning,’ said McLaughlin. ‘Not at all.
‘As a matter of fact, what’s happening is he’s more popular than ever.
‘Let me know the next Republican that wins the Republican primary by running against the president and his agenda.’
If Trump decides not to run, DeSantis is the overwhelming favorite. He gets the vote of 65 percent of respondents and the former president’s son Don. Jr leaps into second place at eight percent.
Former Vice President Mike Pence barely registers with a crowd still angry with him for failing to carry out Trump’s orders to reverse the election result. He managed only 0.3 percent.
And other possible contenders managed only single digits. Sen. Ted Cruz took two percent and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley had the support of one percent.
Trump has yet to declare a run, but has repeatedly hinted that he will stand again.
While he retains a strong grip on the grassroots of the party, some key donors and leaders fear his unfounded complaints of election rigging will turn off independents and swing voters.
That he would win the CPAC straw poll was never in doubt.
But the poll also showed how attendees had lapped up the Trump agenda.
It found that they ranked election integrity and the border wall as the two most important issues.
The exhibitors’ hall at the Hilton Anatole hotel, was filled with Trump merchandise, MAGA hats were everywhere and the former president’s likeness could be seen on cardboard cutouts and T-shirts.
The conference heard from speaker after speaker who claimed that Trump was the best candidate to win back the White House.
Britain’s Nigel Farage said Trump had lost 20lb and looked like he had lost the weight of the world from his shoulders. I believe Donald Trump is the man to go out there and fight on behalf of America and the Western world,’ he told an enthusiastic CPAC crowd
‘I believe that you in the conservative movement in this country are very lucky to have a man who since he left office looks like he’s lost about 20 pounds,’ said Nigel Farage, Britain’s best-known Brexit campaigner, whose 2016 referendum win came months before Trump’s victory.
‘The weight of the world is coming off his shoulders. His nominees are winning the primaries, and I believe Donald Trump is the man to go out there and fight on behalf of America and the Western world.’
The key question for attendees was not so much who should run in 2024, but what DeSantis – who occupies the same political territory as Trump with a younger face – should do with his new national profile.
Shane Trejo, of Republicans for Renewal, said both men were the sort of leaders that the grassroots party should be trying to emulate.
‘I think it would make a lot of sense for Trump to run in 2024 and then DeSantis to finish what he’s doing in Florida, make Florida a red state for generations to come, and then run in 2028,’ said Trejo.
‘DeSantis is a young man… that seems to be best for the for the party and to keep the movement from fracturing.’
Attendees at CPAC Texas don’t want to make a choice between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis for the 2024 Republican nominee. People like exhibitor Shane Trejo want Trump to run, while DeSantis continues his work in Florida before taking on the MAGA mantle in 2028
DeSantis runs consistently second to Trump when Republicans are polled on who they want to have the Republican nomination in 2024. Trump has yet to announce his plans
If the merch is a measure, CPAC attendees are four square behind Trump
Around him the exhibitors hall at the Dallas Hilton offers their own straw poll.
Patriot Mobile’s booth hawks its phone plans beside a cardboard figure of Trump dressed like Rambo.
Stalls sell ‘Don’t blame I voted for Trump’ T-Shirts.
And the story of the Russia investigation is on sale in the form of a children’s fairytale book.
Trejo’s stall is one of the few that features DeSantis in a poster with the quote: ‘America needs a new generation of leaders.’ On the other side is Trump: ‘You’ll never take back our country with weakness.
Although Trump is front and center, DeSantis has made a strong showing in recent months, and has used his position in Florida to generate national headlines.
His opposition to vaccine mandates made him a conservative figurehead during the pandemic. And he has spent the past year aligning himself with parents as he battles what he describes as ‘woke indoctrination in our schools.’
It is no surprise that CPAC attendees are Trump loyalists keen for him to run again in 2024
Trump cutouts are used to sell conservative cellphone plans at CPAC Texas in Dallas
His Parental Rights in Education Act, nicknamed ‘Don’t Say Gay’ by critics, outlaws any instruction involving sexual orientation or gender identity in the earliest grades.
And on Thursday he made national headlines again when he suspended the elected state prosecutor of Tampa for refusing to enforce the state’s new 15-week abortion ban.
With that sort of profile he now runs a consistent second to Trump among Republicans asked to pick their favoured nominee for 2024. And last month, he overtook the former president in a Florida poll for the first time.
The result has been a slew of stories that Trump and DeSantis are fighting for control of the party.
That has got some Trump allies rattled.
A group inside the former president’s inner circle has been pushing Trump to announce his run sooner rather than later, and head off DeSantis before he gets more purchase.
Trump will almost certainly tease the idea of a 2024 run in his Saturday speech. Yet questions remain about whether he will ultimately trade in his daily round of golf and string-free fundraising life for a campaign back in the media spotlight and the financial constraints of the Federal Election Commission.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene took the stage on Friday. The hard-right troublemaker received one of the biggest receptions of the day in the main hall
MyPillow founder and Trump loyalist Mike Lindell speaks to media at the CPAC Convention at the Hilton Anatole, Dallas, Texas. August 05 2022
But the consensus at the conference was that Trump is still the man and DeSantis’s moment will come later.
Martha Johnson, 69, a retired systems analyst who traveled from Mississippi said she wanted Trump to be the candidate in 2024.
‘I would have to say Trump because DeSantis will have another term in Florida,’ she said. ‘He has a job to do there.’
The two inhabit the same political nook of the Republican party. And Trump world insiders insist the idea that the two would fight each other for the nomination is a media creation, and that they would likely reach a deal that would accommodate the ambitions of both.
Kevin Caldwell compared Trump with famed oil well firefighter Red Adair, making him just the sort of leader to battle the crises facing the country.
‘I do think a guy like DeSantis – the class that he brings to the table, the education he brings to the table, his overall ability to get things done in a bipartisan manner, the way he’s also willing to stand up to critics – is going to be a necessary component,’ he said.
‘I just think it’s too early for that.’