Mr. DeSantis lapped the competition, including former President Donald Trump, with 53.73% of the vote in the straw poll taken Saturday at the National Pro-Life Summit, an all-day training for activists held the day after the march at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Trump came in well behind Mr. DeSantis with 19.22% of the vote. Former Vice President Mike Pence placed third with 7.84%. No other potential candidate received more than 2% of the straw-poll vote.
More than 2,000 activists attended the summit and were invited to vote in the straw poll, said Students for Life Action president Kristan Hawkins.
“The Youth vote is now one-third of the electorate, and for the first Post-Roe Generation, expectations are high that candidates will compete to show their commitment to protecting life in law and in service,” Ms. Hawkins said in a statement.
Mr. Trump’s reputation as a pro-life champion took a hit after the former president blamed the abortion issue for the GOP’s weaker-than-expected midterm gains, prompting pushback from Ms. Hawkins, who accused him of passing the buck.
She and others have argued that pro-life Republican candidates who were forthright about their views and refused to shy away from the issue won handily, including Mr. DeSantis, North Carolina Sen. Ted Budd, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
“Meanwhile, Trump backed politicians like Dr. Mehmet Oz and Blake Masters who failed to clearly define their pro-life convictions — whatever they were — failed to win votes,” Ms. Hawkins said in a Jan 4 op-ed on Fox News Digital headlined “Donald Trump’s First Abortion Mistake.”
In terms of legislative priorities, the straw poll also found that a whopping 94.51% favored legislation that protects the unborn at “conception/fertilization,” while 2.16% preferred heartbeat bills that ban most abortions after a heartbeat can be detected, or six to eight weeks’ gestation.
“Pro-life voters are looking for a passionate defense of mother and child and a commitment to act,” said Ms. Hawkins. “A throwaway line in a speech will not cut it with the Pro-Life Generation.”