Former President Donald Trump on Sunday won the straw poll for Republican 2024 presidential candidate at the Conservative Political Action Conference, with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis coming in second place.
Trump was the top choice of 55 percent of CPAC attendees, but DeSantis placed a strong second with 21 percent support, potentially benefiting from a home-state boost at the Orlando, Fla. gathering.
The results were released before Trump took the stage to give his first extended remarks as a former president, in a move to cement his leadership of the Republican Party ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was a distant third in the straw poll of possible GOP candidates, with 4 percent support, followed by former UN ambassador and ex-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, with 3 percent.
If Trump chooses not to run in 2024, DeSantis becomes the clear front-runner with 43 percent support among conservatives who attended the event. Noem garnered 11 percent support and Donald Trump Jr. got 7 percent.
Several others gained support if Trump was counted out of the race. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) both had 7 percent support.
Also emerging in the results without Trump were Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and former first daughter Ivanka Trump, each with 3 percent support. Former Vice President Mike Pence was the pick of just 1 percent.
The straw poll also revealed political priorities of attendees. When asked to identify the most pressing political issues, 62 percent said “election integrity” in an echo of Trump’s claim the election was stolen by fraud.
Forty-eight percent said “constitutional rights” were the most important issue, 35 percent said immigration and the Mexico border wall, 32 percent said reopening the US economy following COVID-19 lockdowns and 26 percent said the Second Amendment.
Other conservative issues were seen as less pressing. Just 22 percent said taxes and government spending were a top priority, 20 percent cited national security and foreign policy and 16 percent identified abortion rights as among the most important issues.