Poll shows Trump with big lead on DeSantis as Florida governor and other GOP hopefuls skip CPAC

Former president Donald Trump holds a commanding lead over a field of potential Republican primary challengers as the 2024 campaign season approaches, with Mr Trump garnering support from 55 per cent of self-identified GOP voters, a new Emerson College poll shows.

Mr Trump’s next closest rival in his quest for a rematch against President Joe Biden, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, only clocks in with support from a quarter of the hypothetical GOP primary electorate pulled in the survey of 1,060 voters. That’s four percentage points lower than the 29 per cent who said they’d support Mr DeSantis in a similar survey last month.

Only two other GOP figures, former vice president Mike Pence and ex-UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, managed to garner more than one per cent of support from respondents, with Mr Pence earning eight per cent of support and Ms Haley getting the nod from just five per cent of respondents.

Both Mr Trump and Ms Haley, who announced her candidacy in the 2024 election earlier this month, are expected to address attendees at the American Conservative Union’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland later this week. The ex-president was one of the headliners during last year’s edition of the conference in Florida, while Ms Haley is returning after several years away from the annual right-wing confab.

While Mr DeSantis made an appearance at the Orlando conference last March, he, Mr Pence, and other potential GOP hopefuls will be absent from the this year’s CPAC, which has long served as a cattle call for Republican presidential contenders.

Instead, the Florida governor will be spending at least part of that time in his own backyard, at a Palm Beach weekend retreat organised by the conservative anti-tax group Club For Growth.

Other potential GOP candidates in attendance will be Mr Pence, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and anti-woke businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, who announced a 2024 bid of his own last week.

Mr Trump was not invited to the annual retreat.