ORLANDO, Fla. — Cheering political activists on Sunday crowned former president Donald Trump the winner of the presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Mr. Trump won with 59% of the vote and GOP rising star Gov. Ron DeSantis a distant second place with 28%.
Other potential 2024 Republican candidates polled well below the two frontrunners. Former Sec. of State Mike Pompeo came in third with 2%. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Vice President Mike Pence, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina each received 1% of support.
Other possible 2024 GOP contenders received zero percent support from CPAC attendees in the straw poll. These were: Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, former HUD Sec. Ben Carson, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
Mr. Cruz, Mr. Pompeo, Mr. Rubio and Mr. Hawley all delivered speeches at CPAC this weekend, a must-stop for possible GOP presidential candidates.
Although Mr. Cruz challenged Mr. Trump in the 2016 GOP presidential primary, he visited the former president at his Mar-a-Lago estate just days before both delivered their respective CPAC remarks.
“Enjoyed visiting with President Trump today at Mar-A-Lago,” Mr. Cruz tweeted above a photo of him standing next to Mr. Trump. “A red wave is coming!”
The annual CPAC straw poll is a secret ballot survey of political activists, commentators and current and former elected officials gathered at the three-day event. The participants at the conservative confab represent the activist base of the Republican Party and have increasingly represented Mr. Trump’s most fervent supporters.
Mr. Trump thrilled the CPAC crowd in a speech Saturday night in which he heavily hinted that he planned to throw his hat into the ring for a 2024 presidential run.
“They’re going to find out the hard way starting on November 8, and then again even more so on November 2024. They will find out like we did it twice, and we’ll do it again,” Mr. Trump said to his cheering supporters. “We’re going to be doing it again a third time.”
Additionally, the straw poll showed that should Mr. Trump not run for office again, Mr. DeSantis has the most support of CPAC attendees with 61%. This is followed by Mr. Pompeo and Donald Trump Jr. who tied with 6%. Mr. Cruz, Mr. Paul and Mrs. Noem tied for third with 3% in this no-Trump scenario.
The straw poll results were presented by Jim McLaughlin, a Republican pollster who conducted the survey for CPAC.
During the conference, CPAC speakers and activists praised Mr. Trump. Wearing Trump caps and t-shirts emblazoned with phrases like “Trump won” and “Make America Great Again,” supporters of the 45th president said they are ready to campaign for him even before he makes an official announcement.
Bikers for Trump, a political action committee created by conservative activist Chris Cox in 2015, has launched its petition to draft Mr. Trump to recapture the Oval Office. The group gathered at CPAC with fellow riders from other pro-Trump motorcycle clubs.
“There’s a difference between someone like Donald Trump and someone like the guy we have now, who’s never signed a paycheck in his life. He doesn’t know how to run people doesn’t know how to manage people who Donald Trump does, and his country is a big business,” Bikers for Trump member Robert Engelf said. “Why wouldn’t you want a business owner to run our country?”
Mark Marshall, President of the Florida motorcycle club Born to Ride for 45, said his organization goes to Trump events to rally and support the former president.
“We get the word out and we rally for him. We just want to try to get away from all the negative stuff that the press is putting out there,” he said. “We support the Constitution. And we support law enforcement. And we support freedom. That’s the American way, and we’re standing up for him.”
Mr. Trump has announced plans for a rally on March 12 in Florence, South Carolina.