President Donald Trump is the unquestioned king of this year's Conservative Political Action Conference. But with his throne on the line in 2020, the faithful here are already busy handicapping the Democratic field.
According to a very unofficial straw poll conducted Thursday and Friday morning, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts emerged as the potential challenger CPAC "voters" believe Trump would most assuredly outlast.
The question, posed to 75 respondees, was this: "Which Democrat considering a run in 2020 do you think Trump would be most likely to defeat?"
Twenty-two of them, so about 30%, chose Warren.
For many, the reasoning was twofold. A number of "Warren voters" said they thought she simply matched up poorly with Trump. Coleman Theodore, a student from the College of Charleston, called her "a Donald Trump to the left," and expected she would falter in a barbed campaign fight.
Others took a longer view, suggesting that defeat for Warren -- or independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont -- would be appealing because, they thought, it would be digested as a national repudiation of the pair's progressive left politics.
Robert Whitehead, who ultimately cast a ballot for Sen. Kamala Harris of California, wrestled with the choice.
"I would most want to run against someone like Hillary Clinton, just from a completely unrealistic perspective. I don't see her getting through the primary, but if we beat her once, we could probably do it again, especially since I think things are better for (Republicans) now than they were in 2016," said Whitehead, a member of the Tufts University Republicans. "Failing that, somebody a bit more like Kamala Harris, with a bit less experience, who is less well known nationally."
After Warren, the leading vote-getters were:
2. Oprah Winfrey (10)
3. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey (9)
4. (tie) Hillary Clinton (7), Sen. Bernie Sanders (7)
6. Sen. Kamala Harris (6)
7. Rep. Maxine Waters of California (5)
8. Former Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota (4)
9. (tie) Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota (2), Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney* (2)
11. Former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia (1)
*That Romney received a pair of votes underlines just popular Trump is at CPAC.
The best news here would seem to be for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, though she seemed to fly mostly below the radar, and former Vice President Joe Biden, who received a grand total of zero votes.
Biden in particular was mentioned repeatedly as CPAC patrons' most feared prospect.
"An absolute nightmare to run against would be somebody like Joe Biden," Whitehead said. "Somebody who does have experience, somebody who people tend to really like and who do have a positive legacy coming out of the Obama administration."
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