Conservative Republicans named Ron DeSantis as their top choice for the 2024 presidential nominee at a summit this weekend, giving the Florida governor their seal of approval over Donald Trump.
DeSantis led a straw poll of presidential contenders at the by the Western Conservative Summit with 75 percent to Trump’s 72 percent.
Organizers at the summit, which was hosted by Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute, asked both the 500 in-person and thousands of online attendees to make their top 2024 picks among 31 choices, which consisted of leading Republican names and a smattering of Democrats, including Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Michelle Obama.
DeSantis came out on top and former Vice President Mike Pence, who was known for his strong conservative support, came in near the bottom of the GOP choices, even trailing Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of the former president.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz came in third with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in fourth.
Conservative Republicans at Western Conservative Summit picked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as their top pick for the 2024 presidential race
It remains early in the presidential process as both parties focus on next year’s midterm election. No GOP White House contender has formally announced and even former President Trump has played coy about whether he will seek a second term.
But, in June, Trump told Fox News that if he did run again he would consider putting DeSantis on the ticket over Pence.
‘Sure I would … I would certainly consider Ron,’ Trump told Fox Business’ Stuart Varney.
‘I know him very well. He’s a great guy,’ Trump said.
The Western Conservative Summit, billed as the largest gathering of conservatives outside Washington, D.C., has conducted straw polls for president since 2010. Herman Cain won the first straw poll in 2011, followed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in 2012 and Cruz in 2013. Ben Carson topped the poll in 2014 and 2015.
None of the presidential contenders addressed this year’s summit.
DeSantis is a first-term governor and a close Trump ally. Trump endorsed his gubernatorial campaign and hosts him frequently at Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach.
DeSantis became a national figure during the COVID pandemic when he won praise from conservatives for his resistance to COVID lockdowns and other restrictive measures – even, at times, against the advice of health officials.
He called Florida an ‘oasis of freedom’ as the pandemic raged.
He also signed a controversial bill last month that would curb voting access, allowing only Fox News inside to witness the signing.
Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, told the Washington Examiner he doesn’t think DeSantis would challenge the former president.
‘Gov. DeSantis won’t even — he’s asked over and over and over again every time I’m in his presence — he’s been asked, “Are you running in 2024?,”‘ he noted.
‘His answer has been consistent: He is running for reelection for governor of the state that not only he loves, but one that is, quite frankly, well run because of his leadership,’ he said.
DeSantis is up for a second term as governor in 2022 and has remained coy about any presidential ambitions as he keeps his focus on that contest.
Democrats are already using the 2024 reports against him, arguing to Florida voters that, if they give DeSantis a second term, he will immediately pivot to a White House race.
Former President Donald Trump came in second to DeSantis among the group of conservative voters; Trump returns to campaign trail on Saturday with a rally in Ohio
The Florida governor came in second to Trump in late February at a straw poll at CPAC, the largest gathering of conservative activists in the country. He won a second straw poll that didn’t include the former president.
Trump, meanwhile, is returning to the campaign trail.
He’ll hold a rally in Ohio on Saturday in support of his former White House aide Max Miller, who is running a primary campaign against Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, one of the ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for his role in the January 6th insurrection.
Pompeo and Pence also have been on the GOP speaking and fundraising circuit as they weigh their 2024 options.
Pence was booed and called a ‘traitor’ at the conservative Faith & Freedom Coalition event in Orlando on Friday.
‘It is great to be back with so many patriots. Dedicated to faith and freedom and the road to the majority,’ Pence said at the ‘Road to Majority’-themed event.
As he began thanking Ralph Reed, the head of the Faith & Freedom coalition, he was met with boos and people loudly shouting ‘traitor!’
Pence and Trump had a falling out when Trump, in the lead up to the January 6th certification of the 2020 presidential results, pressured Pence to try and stop Joe Biden’s victory. Pence, who had no constitutional authority to do what Trump requested, refused to entertain the idea.
Trump railed publicly against his long loyal vice president. The MAGA rioters who stormed the Capitol were heard yelling ‘Hang Mike.’
Former Vice President Mike Pence was booed and called a ‘traitor’ by audience members attending the Faith and Freedom coalition ‘Road to Majority’ event in Orlando, Florida
Earlier this month, Pence tried to argue that he was still on Trump’s good side telling an audience at the Lincoln-Reagan Dinner in Manchester, New Hampshire that he’d spoken to Trump ‘many times’ since they left office.
He admitted, however, that they do not ‘see eye-to-eye’ on the January 6 insurrection.
‘But I will always be proud of what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years,’ Pence said. ‘And I will not allow Democrats or their allies in the media to use one tragic day to discredit the aspirations of millions of Americans,’ he added.
He told the audience that he ‘learned a lot serving alongside President Donald Trump.’
‘Some people think we’re a little bit different,’ the ex-veep said. ‘But I think what President Trump showed us was what Republicans can accomplish when our leaders stand firm on conservative principles and don’t back down.’