Florida governor Ron DeSantis beat out Donald Trump in a straw poll for potential 2024 presidential candidates.
In a poll of 371 conservative-leaning voters, 74 per cent said they would approve DeSantis as a presidential candidate. Trump, meanwhile, notched up a 71 per cent approval rating.
The online poll surveyed those attending the Western Conservative Summit held in Denver, Colorado, last weekend. Survey-takers were quizzed on 30 Democratic and Republican White House candidates.
The summit is one of the largest gatherings of conservatives in the western US, providing a crucial barometer for elections.
Senator and holiday enthusiast Ted Cruz tailed behind Trump at 42 per cent, while former secretary of state Mike Pompeo drew 39 per cent and senator Tim Scott came fifth at just less than 36 per cent.
Unsurprisingly, the top 10 candidates were all Republicans, beating current president Joe Biden and vice president Kamala Harris.
Though Trump continues to command strong support among his base, DeSantis, 42, is fast gaining popularity among right-leaning voters.
In a February poll taken at the Conservative Political Action Conference, 55 per cent said they would want Trump as the party’s nominee, compared to DeSantis’ 22.
When Trump was taken out of the hypothetical race, support for DeSantis soared to 41 per cent.
Watch: Ron DeSantis favored as GOP nominee in straw poll
Trump seems to know DeSantis is a potential rival. Keen to keep the Republican mantle, Trump said he would “certainly consider” tapping his “friend” DeSantis to be his running mate if he decides on a second White House bid.
Ron DeSantis has lengthy anti-LGBT+ track record
Between the two polls, Ron DeSantis has vowed to ban gender-affirmation healthcare for trans youth – despite openly admitting he “didn’t know” the treatments existed “until a few years ago”.
The attorney and staunch Trump ally was unable to sign a bill that sought to do just that as it died in committee in April. He did, however, sign legislation that banned trans youth from taking part in school sports teams.
DeSantis also vetoed crucial funding for programmes that would have helped provide mental health counselling for survivors of the Pulse nightclub massacre.
In 2019, while commemorating the 49 predominantly queer Latinx lives lost, DeSantis infamously failed to mention the LGBT+ community in his remembrance proclamation.
Only months later, he signed a non-discrimination order for state employees that completely excluded protections for LGBT+ workers.
He did, however, ensure that flaming homophobe and radio provocateur Rush Limbaugh was honoured by ordering flags to be flown at half-mast for his funeral.
DeSantis sowed unease among queer Floridians even before his election. While out campaigning in 2018, he appeared as the keynote speaker at the Christian Family Coalition Florida’s gala dinner.
The viciously anti-LGBT+ group has lobbied to keep conversion therapy legal while campaigning against marriage equality.
He boasts a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign, a top LGBT+ rights group, for his voting record on LGBT+ legislation.
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