The Outcome Of CPAC's Straw Poll Was No Surprise
CPAC attendees voted online, not using voting machines.
OXON HILL, Md. — Donald Trump topped the straw poll of declared and likely 2024 presidential candidates at this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) — a shock to no one who has followed the increasingly Trump-dominated gathering of activists in recent years.
Trump was the clear winner on the question of whom respondents would support if the 2024 presidential primary were held today, earning 62% of the vote. In second place was Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) with 20%. DeSantis, widely seen as Trump’s chief rival, has yet to declare his candidacy officially. However, he is reportedly heading to Iowa, the first presidential nominating state for Republicans, later this month and is sitting on a massive campaign war chest. Roughly 2,000 CPAC guests voted in the poll online using their conference credentials.
Kari Lake, the 2022 Arizona Republican gubernatorial nominee who spoke several times at CPAC, was the top choice for vice president. Of the respondents, 20% said they want Lake to be Trump’s running mate.
Support for Trump had noticeably softened from last year’s poll when Trump topped the hypothetical matchup, with 85% of respondents citing him as their top choice for GOP nominee.
CPAC hosts conferences nationwide and internationally throughout the year, but the late-winter event is historically the country’s biggest gathering of conservative activists. Saturday’s poll preceded Trump’s keynote speech and was the first taken for the organization since Trump launched his third presidential campaign in November. It showed that at least the people willing to shell out roughly $300 for a CPAC ticket are still in thrall to Trump, far more than in other national polls of the 2024 field.
“We believe in the man, and we want him to win in his terms bigly,” said Allyse Wolf, a Texan who made up one-fifth of a group whose sequined jackets spelled out T-R-U-M-P. “A lot of people say, ‘I don’t like the way he tweets’ or ‘I don’t like the way he talks about people.’ Who cares? As long as he does the job of getting this country back on its feet and where it belongs.”
Ruth Goetz, a Maryland GOP central committee member wearing a homemade, bright red Trump 2024 dress, said she didn’t get the impression that any other 2024 candidate had a major base of support. “I’m wearing a Trump 2024 dress, so it’s all they talk to me about,” Goetz said. ”[Trump] did so much for our country. He accomplished so much.”
Trump’s possible opponents mostly avoided the conference, and the reception wasn’t necessarily warm for those who did show up. Trump backers accosted former Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley after her speech, NBC News reported. Anti-woke activist Vivek Ramaswamy, who had a solo speaking slot, barely registered at 1%, along with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Only 2% of CPAC attendees were undecided.
The biggest surprise was Michigan businessman Perry Johnson, whom 5% of respondents said they would vote for today (Johnson came to CPAC with a massive bus of supporters). Johnson beat Haley, Trump’s former U.N. ambassador, by 2 percentage points.