Former President Trump won the Conservative Political Action Conference’s straw poll by a wide margin Saturday — proof, his supporters said, that he remains the GOP’s formidable front-runner as the 2024 Republican primaries loom.
Trump was the preferred candidate of 62% of attendees who voted in the right-wing confab’s annual poll. As he has in past years, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis came in second place with 20% percent support.
Two other declared GOP candidates, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, garnered 3 and 1 percent of the vote respectively — and Michigan businessman Perry Johnson, who ran a Super Bowl ad for his long-shot campaign for the GOP nomination came in third with 5% of the vote.
Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, along with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, each had 1% of the vote to round out the tally board.
Joseph Belnome, a New Jersey building inspector, said he cast his straw poll ballot for the former president.
“I already know [Trump] knows what he’s doing and when he gets in there he doesn’t have to have on-the-job training. He’s going to know exactly what to do,” Belnome, 47, told The Post.
“DeSantis is a good governor. I think he can be a good future president … I don’t think it’s his time yet. I think Trump has to finish what he started there.”
The poll results came shortly before Trump was scheduled to take the stage for a raucous keynote address Saturday evening.
The speech was expected to contain a blistering attack on Bush-era Republicans and on “warmongers” within the GOP — and a warning that unlimited aid to Ukraine could result in a global World War III.
Insiders also anticipated Trump to issue a conservative call to arms, urging CPAC loyalists to complete the job of transforming the GOP in his populist image by backing his third White House run in 2024.
“Trump has completely remade the party since he’s become president,” a Trump aide told Axios. “He realized there’s a difference between what grassroots activists thought and what Bush Republicans in Washington, D.C., were trying to enact.”
The annual convention, which met this year in National Harbor, Maryland, has been markedly diminished. Major sponsors and speakers withdrew in recent weeks in the wake of allegations that CPAC boss Matt Schlapp groped a male staffer who was working on the GOP senate campaign of Herschel Walker in Georgia.
Schlapp, who has denied the allegation, was later served with a lawsuit from the anonymous accuser.
Top Republicans, including former Vice President Pence, Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, and DeSantis have all been MIA.
Representatives for the popular Florida governor — who has addressed CPAC in the past — declined to comment on why DeSantis was absent this year.
“I’m not at CPAC. I’m at TPAC,” conservative radio show host John Fredericks told The Hill. “The Trump forces, the America First movement and the populist movement [have] hijacked CPAC. We own this convention.”
Earlier Saturday, former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro fired up the crowd with a red-meat address — and teased a possible third campaign for his country’s top job.
“I did not force anyone to be vaccinated in Brazil,” the polarizing ex-president declared as he bashed COVID-era mandates. “They kept saying science, science, science but what I say is freedom, freedom, freedom.”
Meanwhile, former Rep. Lee Zeldin savaged New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand as “one of the laziest, most forgettable, unaccomplished senators in the country” during a Saturday panel discussion.
“Senator what’s-her-name is wasting a senate seat inside New York — and New Yorkers are getting rolled and screwed,” he said, fueling talk that he will challenge Gillibrand when she runs for re-election in 2024.