ORLANDO, Florida – Almost four months after losing the 2020 election, Donald J. Trump was able to celebrate being a winner again on Sunday, after winning the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference presidential ballot , while Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida finished first in a second 2024 poll covering a field of potential candidates that did not include Mr. Trump.
But in a new surprise for Mr Trump, only 68% of conference attendees said they wanted the former president to run again in 2024. Many more attendees, 95%, said they wanted for the Republican Party to move Mr. Trump’s policies and agenda encouraged him to run again, even as the mere mention of Mr. Trump’s name drew loud applause throughout the gathering of three days of activists.
The secret ballot polls, conducted by secret ballot, reflected the views of Current and former elected officials, activists, writers and others who attended the three-day conference – a group that generally represents the far-right wing of the Republican Party and now includes a disproportionate number of Mr. Trump’s most passionate supporters.
The former president had largely dominated the weekend rally in Orlando – a giant gold replica of him was a major draw for activists – and the organizers of the event, better known as CPAC, held two straw polls to assess the next presidential field whether Mr. Trump is running or not.
Mr. Trump won 55% of the vote in the straw poll in which he was included. Mr DeSantis was the only Republican to reach double-digit numbers, with 21% support, in the straw poll that included Mr Trump. The results were presented by Jim McLaughlin, a pollster for Mr. Trump who conducted the survey for CPAC.
Throughout the weekend, many speakers at CPAC, especially other potential Republican 2024 candidates, had greeted Mr. Trump and showcased his accomplishments with loud standing ovations on Friday and Saturday.
“Donald J. Trump is going nowhere,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said on Friday to thunderous applause.
The results were released Sunday afternoon just before Mr. Trump’s appearance at CPAC to make his post-presidency’s first speech.
Mr. DeSantis’ first place in the straw poll without Mr. Trump is a boost to his emergence as the leading Republican for the post-Trump era. As governor of the crucial swing state of Florida (which is also home to Mr. Trump), Mr. DeSantis has become a popular figure among scientifically skeptical Republicans for his resistance to Covid-related lockdowns.
His speech on Friday captured the current post-political phase of republicanism. “We can sit down and have academic debates on conservative politics, we can do it,” he said. “But the question is, when the Klieg lights get hot, when the left comes after you: will you stay strong, or will you go to bed?”
Mr. DeSantis also pledged never to return to “the bankrupt Republican establishment of yesteryear.” Mr DeSantis, like other potential presidential candidates, has not indicated whether he actually plans to run for the Republican nomination for the White House in 2024.
He won 43% in the straw poll without Mr. Trump, with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem finishing second, with 11%.
CPAC polls have not proven to be particularly predictive of future presidential candidates. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky had three straight wins heading into the 2016 primary, which he left after performing poorly in one contest – the Iowa caucuses. Senator Mitt Romney of Utah has won four CPAC polls (in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012) but is now a figure whose name has drawn boos and derision as one of the fiercest Republican critics of M Trump.
However, the success of Mr. DeSantis in early 2021 gives him a broader platform and the bragging rights of a party that remains very much in search of an identity beyond loyalty to Mr. Trump.
The straw poll result was likely disheartening for former Vice President Mike Pence, who did not attend the conference. He had been Mr. Trump’s staunch No.2 for four years, but his refusal to try to challenge or overturn the 2020 election results earned him Mr. Trump’s ire and, in turn, , that of many members of the Republican base. Mr. Pence got one percent of the votes from CPAC.