Road to White House: DeSantis tops early 2024 straw poll

Florida Governor-elect Ron DeSantis (R) sits next to U.S. President Donald Trump during a meeting with Governors elects in the Cabinet Room at the White House on December 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The results of a straw poll of conservative voters this weekend is spotlighting the appeal of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.

DeSantis came out on top of a 2024 straw poll at the Western Conservative Summit, narrowly edging former President Donald Trump, according to organizers of the conference.

The straw poll at the summit, which was hosted by Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute, asked people attending the gathering both in-person and on-line to vote for all of the potential 2024 presidential contenders that they approve of – out of 31 choices of both Republicans and Democrats.

DeSantis, a first-term governor and Trump ally who’s become very popular among conservatives nationwide since the start of the coronavirus pandemic for his resistance to COVID lockdowns and other restrictions, scored a 74% approval, followed by the former president at 71%. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 43%, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at 39%, and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, at 36%, rounded out the top five in the straw poll.

According to organizers, roughly 500 people attended the 12th annual summit in person at a hotel in Denver, Colorado, with tens of thousands watching online. None of the potential contenders spoke at the conference.

The Florida governor came in second to Trump in late February at a straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference – the biggest and oldest annual gathering of conservative activists and leaders which is better known by its acronym CPAC. And DeSantis, whom pundits consider a potential 2024 Republican presidential contender, made headlines as he easily topped a second straw poll at CPAC that didn’t include Trump.

Pompeo launched a new political organization that aims to help conservative candidates running in the 2022 midterm elections, as Republicans hope to win back majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

In an interview with Fox News, the former three-term congressman from Kansas who served as CIA director and later as America’s top diplomat in the Trump administration., emphasized that the mission of the Champion American Values PAC, or CAVPAC, "is to help conservative candidates all across America. We want to make sure that we can elect people who care about American workers, America’s middle class." 

And Pompeo, a Fox News contributor, tweeted that "I've begun my efforts already to make sure that we build a team so that we can help conservative candidates crush their adversaries in November of 2022."

The formation of the PAC allows Pompeo to raise unlimited amounts of money on behalf of fellow Republicans, allows him to continue to crisscross the country on behalf of GOP candidates and causes — and further sparks speculation that the former secretary of state’s seriously considering a bid for the next Republican presidential nomination. Pompeo seemed to spark more 2024 speculation by telling Fox News, "We’re going to stay in this fight."

Pompeo follows two other potential GOP White House contenders who are also currently out of office - former Vice President Mike Pence and former ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley - in setting up fundraising committees to help fellow Republicans.

Pompeo and Pence will both speak next weekend at the Republican National Committee’s summer donor retreat in Dana Point, California.

The reception the former vice president’s speech at a major social conservative organization’s conference received made headlines on Friday.

"I'm a Christian, a conservative and a Republican in that order," Pence said as the crowd in Orlando, Florida at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual ‘Road to the Majority’ conference cheered the former vice president.

But some attendees appeared to be booing Pence and calling him a "traitor," and a few were escorted out of the room.

Pence has been in a precarious position among some in the GOP base since the storming of the Capitol by right wing extremists aiming to disrupt congressional certification of Biden’s election victory over Trump.

Pence was at the Capitol at the time it was attacked, overseeing the joint session of Congress. By following his Constitution duties instead of following Trump’s wishes and overturn the results, Pence has endured the wrath of the former president and some of Trump’s most devout loyalists and supporters.

In a speech earlier this month in the first in the nation presidential primary state of New Hampshire, Pence - who along with members of Congress was forced to move to secure rooms while the Capitol was stormed - called the attack a "dark" and "tragic" day in American history. But he emphasized "that same day we reconvened the Congress and did our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States."

Pence, Trump’s loyal right hand man the past four years, highlighted that he and Trump have spoken "many times" since the end of their administration in January. But pointing to what many see as his now frayed relationship with the former president, he acknowledged that "I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye to eye about that day."

Pence wasn’t the only potential 2024 presidential contender speaking at the conference of influential evangelical leaders and activists. DeSantis gave the confab’s keynote address, and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rick Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida also spoke at the gathering. 

Trump headed to Ohio as he resumes rallies

The former president is restarting his campaign-style rallies.

Trump announced last week that he’ll hold a rally at the Lorain County Fairgrounds in Wellington, Ohio, which is approximately 40 miles southwest of Cleveland, next Saturday, June 26.

As Fox News reported a couple of weeks ago, the rally is in support of former Trump White House aid Max Miller, who is primary challenging GOP Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (OH-16). Gonzalez was one of the ten House Republicans who in early January voted to impeach the then-president for inciting the deadly attack on the Capitol.

Crenshaw traveling to New Hampshire

Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas may spark some 2024 speculation when he visits New Hampshire next month.

The two-term conservative congressman and former Navy SEAL who lost his right eye during combat in the war in Afghanistan will be a featured speaker at a fundraising dinner hosted by the New Hampshire Republican Party and the Grafton County Republican Committee, on July 8 in Concord.

Fox News' Mark Meredith and Robert Sherman contributed to this report.

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