As expected, Trump received a rapturous welcome at the CPAC conference that ended yesterday and went through his usual spiel for ninety minutes, again claiming that he won. He clearly seeks to remain as the leader of the Republican party and thus has frozen the race to be the party’s next nominee in 2024, similar to the way that Hillary Clinton froze the Democratic race in 2016 until she finally did announce her candidacy.
I expect Trump to tease that he is going to run again because he has nothing else to do and he craves the attention that only being a candidate can provide. As soon as he announces that he is not running, he will become largely a non-entity. This way all the people who might be thinking of running will have to kiss his ring.
What surprised me though is that in the straw poll that is conducted at CPAC conferences, only 55% said they would vote for him in the 2024 presidential primary.. You would expect this year to be peak Trump and that subsequent years would see a decline so this cannot be good for him. Florida governor Ron DeSantis got 21% (this year CPAC is taking place in Florida and so he has had high visibility), South Dakota governor Kristi Noem got 4% and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley got 3%.
The CPAC straw poll also asked respondents who they would support for president in a theoretical race if Trump was not a candidate. The results showed DeSantis with a wide lead at 43 percent support.
In that race, Noem came behind the Florida governor at 11 percent, followed by Donald Trump Jr. at 8 percent and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) both at 7 percent.
In 2016, Cruz won the straw poll.
Cruz was named the winner with 40 percent of the attendees’ support, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio came in second place with 30 percent. Donald Trump, who was scheduled to speak at CPAC on Saturday morning before pulling out, came in third place with 15 percent, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich had 8 percent.
In addition to Trump’s unexpectedly poor showing, other potential candidates who have tied themselves to Trump, like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley who both spoke at CPAC, had hardly any support. Rubio canceled his speech at the last minute due to an ‘unexpected family issue’.
So the Republican circus careens on.