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2024 Straw Poll: DeSantis Beats Trump, Cruz at Western Conservative Summit

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Over the weekend, the annual Western Conservative Summit took place in Denver and offered a small glimpse into where the potential 2024 presidential field stands on the Republican side.

This year, as was the case in 2021, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis came out on top when attendees were asked to rank their preferred choice for Presidential nominee in 2024. The straw poll was not conducted as a straight poll pitting candidates against each other but instead asks for conservative activists to simply provide their preference list.

The results were tallied, and DeSantis came out on top, just a few points over former President Donald Trump when attendees were asked to list “all candidates you approve for President”:

It’s somewhat hard to read, so here are the 2022 results:

  1. Ron DeSantis – 71.01%
  2. Donald J. Trump – 67.68%
  3. Ted Cruz – 28.73%
  4. Dr. Ben Carson – 24.15%
  5. Sarah Huckabee Sanders – 18.40%
  6. Tim Scott – 17.41%
  7. Mike Pompeo – 16.70%
  8. Donald Trump, Jr. – 16.16%
  9. Nikki Haley – 15.53%
  10. Mike Pence – 14.36%

As Business Insider notes, the 2022 numbers are a similar margin compared to the 2021 numbers when DeSantis also came in first at the same event:

This is the second year DeSantis has come out on top of polling among Western Conservative Summit attendees. A 2021 straw poll asking the same question found that DeSantis received 74% approval while Trump received 71%.

Neither DeSantis nor Trump have officially announced whether they’ll be running for president in 2024.

In October 2021, DeSantis said he would not be considering a presidential run because he’s busy “trying to make sure people are not supporting critical race theory.” Meanwhile, Trump has repeatedly teased a run but has not yet made a formal declaration.

The results tell a tale of a Republican Party that has been remade by Donald Trump. DeSantis, the most closely watched Trump-heir, has built a solid reputation for himself among  MAGA faithful, taking the fight, and winning, on hot-button cultural issues in ways almost more effective than Trump.

Of course, DeSantis has the advantage of being a sitting governor of a large, crucial swing state that’s trending redder by the year, but Trump still commands a similar swath of support within the party.

The question really comes down to whether Republicans feel like DeSantis can offer the Trump spirit of fighting the left without the baggage of Trump. That’s not to say Trump couldn’t run again and win, there is clearly an appetite for his economic policies and energy policies given the current state of the country.

DeSantis, unlike some other 2024 GOP contenders, has not said he would stand down if Trump decides to run. This may be a move by the Florida governor to try and clear the field in advance and perhaps make Trump think twice about running again.

If Trump knows he’ll have to fight DeSantis, a battle that could be ugly but ultimately starts with DeSantis at an advantage, he may decide to remain on the sidelines playing kingmaker in various other primaries.

In fact, Trump should be taking the victory lap if someone like DeSantis emerges in 2024 rather than someone like Nikki Haley or Mike Pence. It would be arguable that Trump’s policies and fighter mentality have now become desirable among Republicans rather than the moderate submissive establishment candidates of the past.

Whether Trump would see it that way remains to be seen, but aside from the former president, DeSantis wouldn’t appear to have much serious competition in 2024, at least as far as the party base is concerned.