(NewsNation) — Former President Donald Trump was declared the winner of the straw poll at the GOP’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, with an overwhelming 62%.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis came in second with 20% of the vote, while Nikki Haley, formerly United Nations ambassador and governor of South Carolina, won just 3%.
Perry Johnson, a new player in the Republican race for president, beat out Haley in the CPAC poll with 5% of the vote. The Michigan businessman announced his bid for the White House to a group of supporters Thursday.
Johnson, who tried to run for Michigan governor last year but was determined by the state’s elections bureau to have filed thousands of fraudulent nominating signatures, spoke at the opening day of CPAC, just hours before announcing his candidacy.
Trump took the stage for more than an hour Saturday in friendly territory, setting the stage for his 2024 campaign.
Trump has really re-made the conference in his image and with his brand of politics.
It is an annual tradition that all attendees participate in an unscientific straw poll on their presidential preference in the upcoming election, and Trump was expected to win this year’s matchup of 2024 candidates.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who spoke earlier at the conference, brushed aside the significance of Saturday’s poll, noting that the election is more than a year and a half away.
CPAC, however, gave a preview of what Trump will emphasize in the upcoming election. He focused on speaking to voters about his accomplishments in the White House, slamming the legal cases he is facing and discussing the U.S. funding of Ukraine.
Trump recently called out some of his Republican opponents by name, setting the tone for what could be a contentious primary season.
Even as excitement mounted at the conference for Trump’s speech Saturday night, several prominent members of the GOP touted as potential 2024 contenders — including former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — chose to pass on this year’s CPAC.
As a result, some are questioning if the conference still carries the same weight it has in the past, pointing out that CPAC may skew more in Trump’s favor and toward his brand of politics, as reflected in the speaker’s list, discussion topics and events.
DeSantis, though he has not yet announced his candidacy, is seen as Trump’s biggest political threat in 2024, though polling in the days leading up to the conference showed the former president ahead in a head-to-head matchup.
DeSantis skipped CPAC this year, opting to speak at a “Club for Growth” event, albeit behind closed doors.