Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), though not a formally declared candidate for the 2024 presidential race, has nonetheless been widely speculated to be a top contender for the GOP nomination and has been gaining ground and momentum in numerous polls against the clear frontrunner, former President Donald Trump.
All of that may have been halted and reversed following the release of the results of the presidential straw poll at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, better known as CPAC, that concluded on Saturday, Fox News reported.
After having recently substantially closed the gap between himself and Trump in many other polls, DeSantis finished in a far-distant second place to the former president in the survey of CPAC attendees.
The New York Post reported that there was no doubt that former President Trump was the preferred candidate of choice for CPAC attendees, as he garnered 62 percent of the votes cast in the conference's straw poll.
Gov. DeSantis finished in second place but more than 40 points behind the leader with just 20 percent support, and he was followed by Michigan businessman Perry Johnson in third place with 5 percent.
The only other two formally declared Republican candidates right now, former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and entreprenuerial author and conservative activist Vivek Ramaswamy, drew just 3 percent and 1 percent support, respectively, from the CPAC crowd.
The Post noted that other prospective 2024 GOP candidates, such as Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY), along with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, each received 1 percent support in the survey.
The 42-point lead for former President Trump over Gov. DeSantis is a bit of an outlier with respect to the many other polls that, while still pegging Trump as the clear frontrunner for the 2024 GOP nomination, nevertheless show a much tighter race between the two likely contenders.
According to the RealClearPolitics average of 2024 Republican primary polls, Trump has a 16-point lead over the field with 45.2 percent support among voters, with DeSantis in second place with 29.2 percent.
No other prospective candidate cracked 10 percent in the RCP average, as former Vice President Mike Pence sits in third with 6.8 percent, Haley is fourth with 5.3 percent, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) places fifth with 2.5 percent, with all others drawing only 2 percent or less.
Fox News reported that the CPAC straw poll, which surveyed 2,000 attendees, also asked about vice presidential preferences and found that former TV news anchor turned Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake won with 20 percent support over Gov. DeSantis with 14 percent.
The outlet also noted that the results of this year's survey was not too dissimilar from that of two straw polls CPAC conducted in 2022. The first came in February in Orlando, Florida, where Trump prevailed over DeSantis by a margin of 59-28 percent, while the second was in August in Dallas, Texas, in which Trump won by a spread of 69-24 percent against DeSantis.
The New York Post's report seemed to suggest that the results of CPAC's unscientific straw poll should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt, as the annual conference has become a decidedly Trump-friendly place over the past several years and, notably, DeSantis did not make any appearance or deliver an address this year as he has done to great fanfare in years past.
In the end, while Trump was the clear and decisive winner in this latest CPAC survey, and his lead over DeSantis does appear to be massive, it may not be entirely reflective of the broader reality and, given that primary votes won't even be cast until early 2024, is not as devastating or insurmountable for DeSantis' chances as some might surmise.