Former President Donald Trump was not in attendance at this weekend’s Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island in Michigan, but he was still nearly a 2-to-1 favorite among the GOP candidates for president in 2024.
Trump drew 47.5% support among 740 Republicans in the straw poll, while popular Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was a distant second with around 25% of the vote in The Detroit News-sponsored poll.
There were 1,300 in attendance at the conference Friday and Saturday and they voted through a secure link in the poll, according to the News.
News columnist Nolan Finley suggested Trump getting less than 50% of the vote is a signal the former president’s influence is waning.
“This poll suggests that Donald Trump’s grip on the party is not quite as tight as people think,” Finley said. “I doubt anyone would have expected his support would have been under 50% with this crowd.”
The crowd gathered, though, while Trump was holding a rally in Perry, Georgia, for America First GOP primary candidates endorsed by Trump.
A large majority (60%) vowed to vote for Republican candidates in the upcoming election even if they did not back Trump on a stolen election, according to the News.
Around 44% replied Trump’s endorsement makes no difference in their support for a candidate, while 11% said they were less likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Trump.
Notably, the News left out in its report the percentage of respondents that would be more inclined to vote for a Trump-endorsed candidate.
The conference was not necessarily a unifying event for the Republican Party, as prominent Michigan GOP gubernatorial candidates declined to attend, arguing GOP leadership was unfairly favoring former Detroit Police Chief James Craig in that race, according to the News.
Trump-backers Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spoke at the event. Graham noted he hopes Trump runs for president in 2024, while DeVos stressed the party should vote on principles and note personality.