Trump returns to CPAC, where there are doubts about a 2024 run Donald Trump returns to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas on Saturday. Some attendees worry the controversy following him could be a liability in the next presidential campaign.

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

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Former President Trump is giving closing remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas tonight. Despite his popularity, some attendees at the gathering say they're concerned that Trump's ongoing legal and political issues might make him a liability for Republicans in 2024. NPR's Ashley Lopez is in Dallas covering the event. Ashley, thanks so much for being with us.

ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: Yeah, thanks for having me.

SIMON: One would assume that Donald Trump gets a big reception at CPAC and has a lot of support. What are you hearing from conservatives there?

LOPEZ: Well, first, I should say that there is still a lot of love for Donald Trump here at CPAC. I think it's safe to say that if Trump is on the ballot in November 2024, he has this crowd's vote. What these particular voters are mulling over is whether it's a good idea for Trump to run for president again. The thing I hear quite a bit is that Trump just has, like, a lot of baggage, and I think some of them would just like to see someone with the same ideas carry them on. George Breen, who traveled to Dallas this week from Pennsylvania, told me he is a staunch conservative and appreciates what Trump did as president, but he's ready for someone else.

GEORGE BREEN: 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.

LOPEZ: I heard from a couple of people that they're just kind of unsure whether they think it will be better to have the same message just delivered by someone else entirely.

SIMON: Do you get any sense of who these voters might be looking at instead of Donald Trump?

LOPEZ: You know, it's kind of remarkable, but pretty much all of these conservatives said unprompted that they were looking at Ron DeSantis, Florida's Republican governor. One attendee in the conference said he has all the kind of, like, bulldog energy that Trump has, but he - quite as offensive as Trump. And this is a thing that came up a lot, which is that Trump's brashness and some of the kind of pettiness was just kind of dragging down the larger messages that they're trying to get across as conservatives. One attendee, a young voter named Hannah Blackburn, told me she's also worried about this, and she thinks a lot of this isn't even Trump's fault.

HANNAH BLACKBURN: The way he carries himself is the only thing that we see on media, is, like, the way they cut and edit it. It's very easy to make someone seem evil if all you do is follow them around and cut the good parts and only put the bad parts on TV.

LOPEZ: So his style was a concern in 2016 as well. But, you know, this is also a very different time. Trump tried to overturn a presidential election, which sparked an insurrection. And one big question is whether he will face legal trouble for all that.

SIMON: Ashley, what's your sense of how seriously Donald Trump should take some of the concerns about him that you heard?

LOPEZ: Well, it's kind of hard to tell right now even though Trump might be, you know, considering to, you know, announce his presidential campaign fairly soon. There's still a lot of time before the primaries. Some recent polling from The New York Times and Siena College shows that while some Republican voters are open to voting for him - and they're also open to voting for someone else, about half of the people who were asked in 2024. Trump, by far, has the most support, though, of any single candidate among these voters at 49%. And Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who I mentioned before, was not a very close second and garnered only about half of Trump's level of support at 25%. But again, it's still very early.

SIMON: NPR's Ashley Lopez on assignment for us at the CPAC convention in Dallas. Thank you so much for being with us.

LOPEZ: Yeah, thank you, Scott.

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