The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is a time for the best and brightest of conservatism to come and share their vision for the future.
It’s also a time for presidential hopefuls to see if they can gain some momentum and popularity or make a big splash.
One of the highlights of CPAC is the straw poll, an unofficial flash poll that finds out who the crowd likes most for the upcoming presidential race.
This year had some winners and some losers. Several establishment names who thought they’d get a big leg up actually got beaten by a man who’s never even held political office.
Poll Has Bad News For Nikki Haley, Mike Pence
The CPAC straw poll had some surprising results. The happiest man coming out of it is definitely former President Donald Trump, who obtained 62%, well above DeSantis at only 20%.
DeSantis didn’t attend CPAC.
Despite his also surging popularity, it is being questioned if DeSantis is trying to rebrand himself. As a Reagan conservative who prefers to play by the rules, some believe DeSantis is trying to redefine himself as a nationalist and populist along the lines of Trump.
Though he still did far better than the others on the poll, such as ex-leader of South Carolina Nikki Haley (3%), former VP Mike Pence, and well-liked Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin.
Despite their names being well-known, they were all beaten out by businessman Perry Johnson, who obtained third place with 5%.
Johnson is a successful billionaire who shared his rags-to-riches story with the crowd and talked about the need to fire Biden and bring back American greatness.
This non-politician is clearly following a little bit out of the Trump playbook, albeit with a bit less of Trump’s stage presence.
Whereas the remarkable fact is that he got so far ahead of establishment politicians like Haley, Pence, and Youngkin.
ICYMI: My speech at @CPAC yesterday really fired up the crowd! And do you know why? Because with my #TwoCents Plan to Save America, we’ll #FireBiden, tame runaway inflation, and make life affordable for Americans once again.
Watch my speech below! ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/sAiu7hzW3J
— Perry Johnson (@PJQualityGuru) March 3, 2023
The New GOP
The old days of the corporate GOP aren’t coming back. This race is Trump’s to lose and DeSantis is the only one who holds a chance of taking the crown from him.
Johnson’s third-place finish shows how much American conservatives no longer trust smooth-talking politicians.
They want real results and answers. They trust rich business people to give them those results far more than they trust legislators and politicians.
My Super Bowl ad is here! Have you seen it? My #TwoCent plan to save America from @JoeBiden & @AOC's reckless spending is simple. Our fat, bloated gov't is making everyday living unaffordable, but if we cut just 2% of our discretionary spending, our nation will be back on track! pic.twitter.com/QAq9HKIRoI
— Perry Johnson (@PJQualityGuru) February 14, 2023
The Bottom Line
It’s hard to see Haley and Pence’s path forward at this point. Somebody like Youngkin still has a pretty clean slate, but both of them have a lot of baggage.
Pence was never fully embraced by the MAGA crowd and was more of a way to lock down a certain sector of the vote for Republicans.
He’s going to need a lot more to get ahead in this race, as will Haley.This article appeared in StatesmanPost and has been published here with permission.