When President Donald Trump takes the stage at a major conservative conference in Dallas on Saturday he will likely have just received a boost to his 2024 plans in the form of a straw poll that will almost certainly rank him as the clear favorite among attendees.
But that is not the end of the story as far as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose star has been on the rise this year.
Attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference want him first to continue the work he is doing in Florida before taking up the national MAGA torch in the 2028 election.
Shane Trejo, of Republicans for Renewal, said both men were the sort of leaders that the grassroots party should be trying to emulate.
‘I think it would make a lot of sense for Trump to run in 2024 and then DeSantis to finish what he’s doing in Florida, make Florida a red state for generations to come, and then run in 2028,’ said Trejo.
‘DeSantis is a young man… that seems to be best for the for the party and to keep the movement from fracturing.’
Attendees at CPAC Texas don’t want to make a choice between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis for the 2024 Republican nominee. People like exhibitor Shane Trejo want Trump to run, while DeSantis continues his work in Florida before taking on the MAGA mantle in 2028
DeSantis runs consistently second to Trump when Republicans are polled on who they want to have the Republican nomination in 2024. Trump has yet to announce his plans
If the merch is a measure, CPAC attendees are four square behind Trump
Around him the exhibitors hall at the Dallas Hilton offers its own straw poll.
Patriot Mobile’s booth hawks its phone plans beside a cardboard figure of Trump dressed like Rambo.
Stalls sell ‘Don’t blame I voted for Trump’ T-Shirts.
And the story of the Russia investigation is on sale in the form of a children’s fairytale book.
Trejo’s stall is one of the few that features DeSantis in a poster with the quote: ‘America needs a new generation of leaders.’ On the other side is Trump: ‘You’ll never take back our country with weakness.
Although Trump is front and center, DeSantis has made a strong showing in recent months, and has used his position in Florida to generate national headlines.
His opposition to vaccine mandates made him a conservative figurehead during the pandemic. And he has spent the past year aligning himself with parents as he battles what he describes as ‘woke indoctrination in our schools.’
It is no surprise that CPAC attendees are Trump loyalists keen for him to run again in 2024
Trump cutouts are used to sell conservative cellphone plans at CPAC Texas in Dallas
His Parental Rights in Education Act, nicknamed ‘Don’t Say Gay’ by critics, outlaws any instruction involving sexual orientation or gender identity in the earliest grades.
And on Thursday he made national headlines again when he suspended the elected state prosecutor of Tampa for refusing to enforce the state’s new 15-week abortion ban.
With that sort of profile he now runs a consistent second to Trump among Republicans asked to pick their favoured nominee for 2024. And last month, he overtook the former president in a Florida poll for the first time.
The result has been a slew of stories that Trump and DeSantis are fighting for control of the party.
That has got some Trump allies rattled.
A group inside the former president’s inner circle has been pushing Trump to announce his run sooner rather than later, and head off DeSantis before he gets more purchase.
Trump will almost certainly tease the idea of a 2024 run in his Saturday speech. Yet questions remain about whether he will ultimately trade in his daily round of golf and string-free fundraising life for a campaign back in the media spotlight and the financial constraints of the Federal Election Commission.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene took the stage on Friday. The hard-right trouble maker received one of the biggest receptions of the day in the main hall
MyPillow founder and Trump loyalist Mike Lindell speaks to media at the CPAC Convention at the Hilton Anatole, Dallas, Texas. August 05 2022
But the consensus at the conference was that Trump is still the man and DeSantis’s moment will come later.
Martha Johnson, 69, a retired systems analyst who traveled from Mississippi said she wanted Trump to be the candidate in 2024.
‘I would have to say Trump because DeSantis will have another term in Florida,’ she said. ‘He has a job to do there.’
The two inhabit the same political nook of the Republican party. And Trump world insiders insist the idea that the two would fight each other for the nomination is a media creation, and that they would likely reach a deal that would accommodate the ambitions of both.
Kevin Caldwell compared Trump with famed oil well firefighter Red Adair, making him just the sort of leader to battle the crises facing the country.
‘I do think a guy like DeSantis – the class that he brings to the table, the education he brings to the table, his overall ability to get things done in a bipartisan manner, the way he’s also willing to stand up to critics – is going to be a necessary component,’ he said.
‘I just think it’s too early for that.’