Conservatives view former Vice President Joseph R. Biden as the “biggest threat” to President Trump in the 2020 election, according to Saturday’s Washington Times/CPAC straw poll. Sens. Bernard Sanders and Kamala Harris were a distant second and third.
Mr. Biden was the most feared opponent by nearly 40 percent of voters at the Conservative Political Action Conference, while between 11 and 12 percent picked the two senators, out of a list of more than 22 possible candidates.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke trailed far back in fourth place at 4.5 percent, while a pair of billionaires, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz were next in line. Mr. Schultz is running as an independent.
Sens. Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar barely registered. with none cracking the 2 percent mark as a feared presence.
Meanwhile, within the GOP itself, the more than 900 conservatives polled said Mr. Trump has their vote in a 2020 primary. More than 80 percent will back him, and his closest potential opponent would be Sen. Mitt Romney, the GOP’s 2012 nominee who failed to unseat President Obama, far behind at 6 percent support.
Mr. Romney’s name drew boos from the audience as the results were being released on the stage at CPAC.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who has announced he’s exploring a campaign, was the choice of 1.2 percent of CPAC attendees.
Support for Mr. Trump went beyond mere politics.
His plan to declare a border emergency and use Pentagon money to construct a border wall in defiance of a majority of Congress wins strong backing, with 74 percent saying they support the idea — including 57 percent who “strongly” agree with the president.
Two-thirds also agree with the president’s decision to pull troops from Syria, and two-thirds back his eagerness to use tariffs, bucking the chiding of conservative economists who decry them as market distortions.
About the only area of disagreement was over tactics in the Senate, where Mr. Trump urged the GOP to end the filibuster to push his agenda through. Most CPAC-goers — a 53 percent majority — said it’s important to keep the tool in place, compared to just 36 percent who back Mr. Trump on elimination.
Mr. Trump spoke to the crowd early Saturday afternoon, delivering a two-hour speech that ranged from the profane to the newsworthy to the introspective — and more than anything served as the unofficial kickoff of the 2020 presidential race.
While Mr. Trump was speaking in Maryland, Mr. Sanders, 77, was announcing his own 2020 bid for Democrats’ nomination from his birthplace in Brooklyn, New York.
Alex Reyes, a 21-year-old college student at CPAC, said Mr. Sanders is the Trump opponent he most fears — “but I don’t think he will win just because the Democratic party itself has been having issues.”
A number of CPAC-goers said Democrats are trapped because anyone who can win the party’s nomination can’t win a general election. That was particularly true for Mr. Biden, 76.
“I think the younger folks are the face of the party — green party, socialist, liberalism, late-term abortion,” said Kathleen Smero, from Baltimore, who was attending her seventh CPAC. “I don’t think this is the party that wants moderation.”
Other CPAC attendees said it didn’t matter what direction Democrats go in, there’s not a winner among them.
“I believe you could take all the Democratic contenders right now and put them in a room and they still don’t equal one Trump,” said Tilghman Hemsley, 58, a waterman in Maryland.
• Gabriella Muñoz contributed to this article.