Former President Donald Trump, by most accounts, is currently atop the list of potential GOP presidential candidates for 2024. However, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been catapulted into the conversation of major contenders for the Republican Party in 2024, thanks in large part to his leadership during the coronavirus pandemic. A new poll gave DeSantis a slight edge over Trump as the preferred GOP candidate for the 2024 presidential race.
The Western Conservative Summit, which bills itself as "the largest gathering of conservatives outside of Washington, D.C.," was held this weekend in Denver, Colorado. Participants at the summit voted in a straw poll about several important topics for conservatives, including their preferred candidate in the 2024 presidential race.
DeSantis narrowly beat out Trump as the most popular Republican for 2024.
In-person attendees and online participants were asked about their approval of a field of 31 potential presidential candidates for 2024. DeSantis topped the list with a 74.12% approval rating, followed by Trump at 71.43%. DeSantis and Trump are far-and-away the top two candidates as the third-place finisher – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) – only captured a 42.86% approval rating, according to the Daily Wire. Trump's former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo surprised at fourth, and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) rounded out the top five.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem came in sixth, followed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Donald Trump Jr., and former Vice President Mike Pence, who was booed and called a "traitor" at a conservative conference last week, came in 10th place.
It should be noted that the straw poll allowed participants to select as many candidates as they wanted.
- Ron DeSantis — 74.12%
- Donald Trump — 71.43%
- Ted Cruz — 42.86%
- Mike Pompeo — 39.35%
- Tim Scott — 35.58%
- Kristi Noem — 29.92%
- Tom Cotton — 29.92%
- Rand Paul — 27.76%
- Donald Trump Jr. — 24.8%
- Mike Pence — 21.56%
Colorado Politics pointed out that the Western Conservative Summit's straw poll doesn't have a sterling reputation of predicting future GOP candidates:
Though it might have pegged the favorites of its right-leaning crowd, the polls have done a poor job of predicting eventual GOP nominees or general election winners. Restauranteur Herman Cain won the first presidential poll in 2011, followed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in 2012 and Cruz in 2013. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson topped the poll in 2014 and 2015, while in 2016 summit attendees thought Trump should tap former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as his running mate, and former district attorney George Brauchler was the runaway favorite for Colorado governor in 2017.
A straw poll conducted during the Conservative Political Action Conference in February also found huge support for Trump and DeSantis. There were 55% of CPAC attendees who said Trump would be the best choice as the GOP candidate in the 2024 presidential election, followed by DeSantis at 21%, and Noem at 4%.
The CPAC attendees were asked who they would want to run if Trump bows out of the 2024 election, which made DeSantis the overwhelming favorite with 43% support and Noem was the runner-up at 11%.
Participants of the Western Conservative Summit, which is sponsored by Colorado Christian University's Centennial Institute, were also asked what their top issues are. The results were:
- Immigration/Border Security — 82.43%
- Election Integrity — 79.46%
- Religious Freedom — 74.86%
- Federal Budget, Debt & Deficit — 74.32%
- Gun Rights — 73.78%
- National Defense — 71.08%
- Energy Independence — 70.54%
- Education — 61.89%
- China/Russia — 60.81%
- Life/Abortion — 55.68%
- Media Bias — 55.68%