Former President Donald Trump is the clear favorite among the most active conservatives to be atop the GOP ticket in 2024, overshadowing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a rising conservative star.
Driving the news: Trump pulled 59% of the vote to DeSantis’ 28% in a Conservative Political Action Conference Orlando straw poll Sunday, affirming Trump’s lasting popularity among conservatives 13 months after he was kicked out of the White House.
- The potential Trump-DeSantis power struggle was the topic of conversations all weekend at the Orlando CPAC gathering.
- DeSantis hasn’t said if he would challenge Trump in a presidential primary, a point of recent contention in their friendship, CNN reports.
Yes, but: The path to the presidency for DeSantis means getting reelected as Florida governor in 2022, on the presumption that losing would kill his immediate presidential ambitions.
- A UNF poll released late last week showed DeSantis beating both Democratic challengers by wide margins.
Between the lines: While DeSantis is seen as the party’s next leader and the only Republican who could potentially mount a challenge to Trump, his future is in Trump’s hands.
- If Trump steps aside, DeSantis is the heir apparent. Conservatives see him as a less crass version of Trump.
- If Trump runs, DeSantis would be no match. “If [Trump] decides to run, he wins the primary. Everybody knows that,” Saul Anuzis, a longtime Republican strategist, told The Hill.
Signs of a rift: Over the weekend, Trump praised Republican governors for their pandemic response and gave shout outs to U.S. Sen. Rick Scott and U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, but he did not mention DeSantis by name.
- And DeSantis — who got a worse speaking slot than Donald Trump Jr.’s fiancé — blasted President Joe Biden and boasted about successes of his libertarian COVID-19 policies, but didn’t mention Trump.
Flashback: At CPAC Orlando last year, 55% of conservatives picked Trump. That jumped to 70% at a second CPAC in July in Dallas.
Of note: When pollsters removed Trump from the race, DeSantis earned 61% of voters’ support, far more than Mike Pompeo in second place with 6%.
Ben’s thought bubble: DeSantis’ Democratic challengers — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Florida Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried — would benefit big if Trump turned on DeSantis.
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