DeSantis top choice again in CPAC straw if Trump doesn't run in 2024

Zac Anderson
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

ORLANDO — More evidence that Gov. Ron DeSantis has cemented his position as the chief GOP alternative to former President Donald Trump emerged Sunday in Orlando, where a straw poll of conservative activists again showed strong support for the governor.

For the second year in a row, the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll had DeSantis in second place in a GOP presidential primary that includes Trump, but dominating the field if Trump bows out.

DeSantis was supported by 61% of CPAC attendees without Trump on the ballot, far ahead of second-place finisher Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state, who was at 6% support.

Former President Donald Trump stands behind Gov. Ron DeSantis as he speaks at a rally, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, in Pensacola, Fla.

With Trump running, DeSantis is at 28% support compared to 59% for the former president.

More CPAC coverage:DeSantis gets a lot of love at CPAC event in Orlando, but not from Trump

DeSantis slightly improved his position in a matchup against Trump compared with last year, when the CPAC straw poll had the governor at 21% support, compared to 55% for the former president.

However, the new poll indicates that DeSantis still could have a tough time challenging Trump, who remains immensely popular within the GOP and was greeted enthusiastically by the CPAC crowd during his Saturday speech. That could cool, if not completely quell, talk of DeSantis running against Trump in 2024.

However, the poll is another indicator that DeSantis may be the GOP's brightest star other than Trump and the leading Republican 2024 contender if Trump is out of the picture.

DeSantis has grown more popular with the CPAC crowd since last year, when the event’s straw poll helped supercharge talk that he could run for president.

Last year, 43% of CPAC attendees said they would back DeSantis if Trump doesn’t run.

DeSantis was an impressive 32 points ahead of the second-place poll finisher last year, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, in a primary that doesn’t include Trump, but the governor is a whopping 56 points ahead of Pompeo this year.

Trump hinted again Saturday that he may run for president in 2024.

“On November 2024 they will find out like never before," Trump said. "We did it twice and we’ll do it again, we’re going to be doing it again a third time."

Follow Herald-Tribune Political Editor Zac Anderson on Twitter at @zacjanderson. He can be reached at zac.anderson@heraldtribune.com