Will CPAC straw poll be another Trump, DeSantis 1-2 finish in GOP presidential nomination question?

Matt and Mercedes Schlapp sound off on Russia-Ukraine, Biden admin failures at CPAC

Matt and Mercedes Schlapp discuss the Biden administrations response to Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Along with former President Trump’s address on Saturday evening, the results of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll are the most anticipated moment at this weekend’s gathering in Florida.

And voting is already underway among the thousands of attendees taking part at the confab in Orlando, which is the oldest and largest gathering of conservative leaders and activists.

Registered CPAC attendees are anonymously answering – via an online app – the multipage survey, but the question that will undoubtedly generate the most buzz is the one on the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

A CPAC ’22 sign at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, on Feb. 25, 2022
(Fox News)

“CPAC is a good barometer of the most active grassroots of the party,” veteran Republican pollster and political consultant Frank Luntz told Fox News. “I expect Trump to win the straw poll big, mirroring his front-runner position right now.”

While there’s little drama over whether Trump will once again top the ballot, there’s plenty of anticipation over how much of a winning margin he secures and the percentage of support likely second place finisher Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida receives.

Thirteen months removed from the White House, Trump remains by far the most popular and influential politician in the GOP, as he continues to play a kingmaker’s role in the 2022 Republican Party primaries and flirts repeatedly with making a 2024 presidential run.

Former President Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, in Orlando, Florida.

A year ago, at the inaugural CPAC held in Orlando, 55% of those voting in the unscientific poll of the markedly pro-Trump crowd wanted the former president to be the GOP’s standard-bearer in 2024. Trump’s support climbed to 70% at a second CPAC gathering held in July in Dallas, Texas.

“President Trump is the conservative movement right now,” said John McLaughlin, a longtime GOP pollster who along with his brother conducted surveys for Trump’s 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns. 

McLaughlin, who’s overseen CPAC straw polls for years, noted that “I’m polling in some the hottest Republican Senate primaries across the country, and the president is still extremely popular.”

But Trump’s popularity and repeated teasing of a 2024 run isn’t preventing other potential Republican White House hopefuls from making early moves.

And a bunch of the possible contenders are also speaking at CPAC. The list includes DeSantis, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of Florida, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Orlando, Florida.
(AP Photo/John Raoux)

“I think it’s great that we have some competition, and we have some people who are out there strutting their stuff, and that’s what CPAC’s all about,” Matt Schlapp, president of the American Conservative Union, the group that for decades has organized and hosted CPAC, told Fox News.  “It has always been a place where people who want to lead this movement can see how well they fire up the crowd, and I’m sure that will happen again.” 

Luntz said that rather than focusing on Trump’s performance, he’s “actually much more interested in how well the Florida governor does. If he gets more than 20%, it will be a strong indication that he’s breaking through and a validation of his COVID political strategy.”

DeSantis came in second in both the CPAC Orlando and Dallas straw polls last year, finishing each time at 21%. His standing in the straw polls was more proof of his soaring popularity among conservatives nationwide for his resistance to lockdowns and COVID restrictions amid the coronavirus the past two years, the worst pandemic to strike the globe in a century.

“My take is that Trump is like an incumbent. He is beloved by people, but people also respect great governors, leading that way is Ron DeSantis,” Schlapp said. 

“They love the senators that always stand up and do the right thing,” Schlapp emphasized as he nodded to Cruz and Hawley, who headlined the first evening of the confab.

Listed on the straw poll ballot on the online questionnaire are, in order of their appearance: former Vice President Mike Pence, Cruz, Hawley, Sen. Mitt Romney, Rubio, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Trump, Pompeo, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Scott and Noem.

The final question on the survey asks the conservative attendees whom they think will be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2024. The list of choices includes, in order: Rep. Alexander Ocasio-Cortez of New York, President Biden, former first lady Michelle Obama, former senator and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Vice President Kamala Harris, Oprah Winfrey, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Fox Nation is the Featuring Sponsor of CPAC 2022. Watch CPAC speeches live and on-demand on Fox Nation. Sign up using promo code CPAC to receive a 30-day free trial. Offer ends April 30, 2022.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report

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