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At CPAC, some Trump supporters aren't totally in love with the idea of a 2024 run

CPAC attendees wait in line to get their book signed by former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson in Dallas on Thursday.
Azul Sordo
CPAC attendees wait in line to get their book signed by former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson in Dallas on Thursday.

Donald Trump's ongoing legal and political issues might be too much baggage for some conservative voters.

During the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas this week, some attendees said all the controversy following Trump could be a liability as they weigh who could possibly run against President Joe Biden in 2024.

On Saturday, Trump is slated to close out CPAC Texas – a part of the long-running convention for conservative Republicans that has fully embraced Trumpism in the past few years. Ahead of his closing remarks, some voters said they are still in Trump's corner, but they have some concerns about him running for a second term.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses CPAC attendees on Thursday.
Azul Sordo / KERA
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses CPAC attendees on Thursday.

George Breen, who traveled from Pennsylvania, was selling 'Stop the Steal' themed board games called 'Swing State Steal' at the convention. He says he's a staunch conservative who voted for Trump in 2020 and says he appreciates everything Trump did as president. But, Breen says, he thinks it is time for someone else to carry on what Trump started.

"I think he tapped into something in the American psyche that hadn't been tapped into by either party, but he's a problematic character," Breen says. "He's a difficult person... there's too much petty stuff. He's too disruptive."

Hannah Blackburn with Students for Life, an anti-abortion rights group that works with college students, says she thinks Trump's media coverage is mostly to blame for this image.

"I see a lot of younger people who don't have a lot of respect for Trump, because of the way he carries himself," she says. "But the way he carries himself is what we see in the media. It's easy to make people seem evil when all you do is ... cut the good parts and only show the bad parts."

A vendor sits with their Trump-themed merchandise at CPAC.
Brandon Bell / Getty Images
Getty Images
A vendor sits with their Trump-themed merchandise at CPAC.

There are many conservatives who think Trump is still the Republican Party's best shot at taking back the White House, though. Catherine White from Grand Prairie, Texas, says Trump has weathered bad press before.

"Most of the baggage, he has already fought through it," she says. "He has taken a beating and he still comes out on top."

Polling shows that some Republican voters are open to voting for someone other than Trump in 2024. According to a New York Times/Siena College poll from July, about half of Republicans polled would back another candidate. However, Trump by far has the most support of any single candidate among these voters at 49%. Florida Gov. Ron Desantis was second, but garnered only about half of Trump's level of support at 25%.

Cassiopeia Fletcher from Nebraska says she is torn about Trump running for president again.

"There are some days where I think that would be great and other days where I think it is time to move on," she says.

At this point, Fletcher says it depends on who is running. Her preference so far: Desantis.

"He has all of the bulldog of Donald Trump," she says. "Without the offensiveness."

This summer, former members of the Trump White House have been testifying before Congress about Trump's efforts to discredit the 2020 election, which culminated in an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Former White House staff told lawmakers that Trump was key in pushing a false narrative to the American people that the 2020 election was stolen from him, and even wanted to march on the Capitol along with supporters who he knew were armed. It's stillan open question whether the Department of Justice will charge Trump for his effort to overturn the election.

Another open question: whether Trump will announce his candidacy before or after midterm elections this fall.

Blackburn says she is torn about whether conservatives should throw their entire weight behind Trump or if they should back another candidate, particularly Ron Desantis. Florida's Republican governor isn't making an appearance at CPAC Texas, but was mentioned often by CPAC attendees as a possible alternative to Trump.

"It's a tough one," she says. "I have a lot of respect for both of them."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ashley Lopez
Ashley Lopez is a political correspondent for NPR based in Austin, Texas. She joined NPR in May 2022. Prior to NPR, Lopez spent more than six years as a health care and politics reporter for KUT, Austin's public radio station. Before that, she was a political reporter for NPR Member stations in Florida and Kentucky. Lopez is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Miami, Florida.