CPAC attendees love Ron DeSantis -- for 2028

CPAC attendees love Ron DeSantis -- for 2028
Ron DeSantis speaking with attendees at the 2018 Student Action Summit, hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, Gage Skidmore
How Ron DeSantis has positioned himself as a leading MAGA ‘culture warrior’: conservative

Former President Donald Trump is listed as the keynote speaker for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), but there is one other Republican who also has the attention of attendees: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

According to WFLA, the growing interest in the Florida governor became apparent on Thursday, February 24 when the annual conference kicked off. DeSantis managed to garner substantial crowd reactions and rounds of applause from attendees. It has been reported that one attendee even had a sign that read, "DeSantisland."

Speaking to the publication, Thomas Longo, a 51-year-old attendee from New York, said that while he is looking forward to another Trump run in 2024, he liked DeSantis' firm stance on many of the key issues he is concerned about. “DeSantis is a very powerful man,” Longo said. “He’s hopefully a potential president in ’28, I would prefer, at this point.”

“I would still like to see Trump get in there in ’24,” he added. “But I think Trump is man enough to know that if he’s not able to do it, I think Trump would back DeSantis. I really do, personally.”

Saul Anuzis, a longtime Republican strategist who has attended the CPAC for years, weighed in with his take on the evolution of DeSantis. Since Trump is still a heavy favorite for Republican voters, Anuzis admitted that it would be interesting to see how voters decide on the next Republican presidential candidate.

“To me what’ll be interesting to see is, even if people like Trump, do they want to move on?” Anuzis said. “And I think that’s where DeSantis’ appeal comes from — that maybe it’s time for a new generation. Maybe it’s time for fresh leadership.”

Rebecca Schmigdall, a Naples, Fla., who also attended the conference, said that while she does like both candidates, she prefers them to stay in the lanes they've been in. “I don’t want DeSantis to leave us yet,” she said. “I think eventually he probably will. But I think him being a strong voice for the governors is more important right now.”

Simon Molina Herrera, a student at the University of Maryland, who works as the Turning Points USA campus coordinator, admitted that he also likes DeSantis but believes timing is more important since there is a possibility Trump could run for president again in 2024.

“Ron DeSantis has been one of the greatest governors in the nation — keeping all the businesses open, keeping the state open,” he said. “He’s really great for a presidential candidate, but I think he should run for 2028.”

Another Republican strategist made a similar suggestion. He insisted that if Trump were to run in 2024, it would be unlikely to see both of them face off in the same race. However, he also noted that there are clues that suggest Trump is not as strong of a candidate as he once was.

“If this thing comes back and shows that Trump is holding his support or increasing it, that should kind of tell some of these other folks that 2024 might not be in the cards,” the pollster said. “But I think there have been a few signs that he’s not as strong as he used to be. The enthusiasm is there, especially at a place like CPAC, but that only goes so far.”

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