Though Trump remains top for 2024, CPAC attendees showed a deepening interest in Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

One obvious sign of interest came Thursday as curious attendees packed the main conference room for his speech. The crowd rose to applaud several points in his speech. After he finished, the area quickly cleared out as interest waned in follow-up speakers.

Rebecca Schmigdall, a Florida native, said she backs Trump for 2024 in hopes to keep DeSantis in Florida “for as long as we can.”

“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.” She also acknowledged Trump wont be able to lead the movement forever and thinks of DeSantis as his rightful heir.

Others are ready now. Simon Molina Herrera, a campus coordinator for Turning Points USA, said he’s looking forward to “a new generation of leaders” with DeSantis at the helm. “Ron DeSantis has been one of the greatest governors in the nation – keeping all the businesses open, keeping the state open,” he said.

Saul Anuzis, a longtime Republican strategist, said the interest in DeSantis isn’t out of a weariness for Trump, but a desire for a fresh face who can carry on Trump’s movement.

“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’s appeal comes from – that maybe it’s time for a new generation. Maybe it’s time for fresh leadership.”

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