Donald Trump entering the stage as the final speaker at CPAC 2023. Credit: CPAC.
Donald Trump entering the stage as the final speaker at CPAC 2023. Credit: CPAC.

Former President Donald Trump won the Conservative Political Action Conference’s (CPAC) straw poll with a commanding 62 percent of the vote, while Florida Governor Ron DeSantis came in a distant second with 20 percent. The results were not surprising given that Trump has won the top spot in each of the previous five CPAC straw polls. However, the fact that CPAC has become a Trump-friendly venue over the years is noteworthy, as several potential 2024 presidential contenders skipped the event.

One reason for the absence of some high-profile Republicans at CPAC this year could be the event’s transformation into a three-day-long Trump rally, with the Conservative base remaining largely loyal to the former President. Indeed, the event featured several Trump-friendly faces, such as those in the “Freedom Caucus,” who also spoke at CPAC. This may have contributed to the decision by DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, and Senator Tim Scott to skip the event.

Businessman Perry Johnson, who recently announced his candidacy for the White House, received just 5 percent of the vote in the straw poll, suggesting that Trump’s continued dominance among the Conservative grassroots could make it difficult for other Republican candidates to gain traction.

Despite the absence of some potential contenders, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy both delivered speeches at the event, and were generally well-received. Their appearances may have helped to boost their profiles and increase their chances of success if they decide to run for the presidency in 2024.

The CPAC straw poll is seen as an important gauge of the presidential preferences of Conservative grassroots activists, and Trump’s continued dominance in the poll suggests that he remains a powerful force in the Republican Party. Trump himself addressed the conference on Saturday night, following the release of the poll results. His speech was highly anticipated, and many observers will be watching closely to see what he has to say about his future plans and the direction of the Republican Party.

CPAC’s straw polls are not dead-on accurate, however, the year event gives a great gauge of who is popular within the Conservative base.

Previously, presidential hopefuls Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Mitt Romney would all go on to have their favorable straw poll results materialize into becoming the GOP’s presidential candidate in their elections.

Findings of previous CPAC straw poll results. Credit: The Atlantic.
Findings of previous CPAC straw poll results. Credit: The Atlantic.

Former President Donald Trump holds the record for winning the most CPAC straw polls with five victories to his name. Mitt Romney follows closely behind with four wins, while Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, and Rand Paul each have three. Of these five individuals, only the Pauls have won more than one straw poll, but neither has ever appeared on a Republican presidential ticket, although Ron Paul did receive one Electoral College vote in 2016. Despite Romney’s previous popularity, he was not invited to CPAC in 2020 due to his vote to hear additional witnesses in the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump, and he was also not invited to the 2021 CPAC after voting to convict Trump on one count in his second impeachment trial. CPAC’s chairman had expressed concern about Romney’s “physical safety” at the 2020 conference.



  2. At the same time as CPAC, the Club for Growth held an event which DeSantis attended. It is not unreasonable to suspect many of DeSantis’s supporters attended that event instead of the CPAC event. That in turn, would skew the CPAC numbers in favor of Trump over Desantis. I submit that the actual margin is narrower than the straw poll suggests.

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