Orlando, Florida (AP) – Leading Republicans spent most of the three days avoiding Donald Trump’s main grievances or ignoring him altogether when they united under an interim message to bring back voters polarized by a former president alienated during his tenure.
That changed on Saturday night.
Faced with thousands of welcoming activists at the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump falsely accused his defeat in the 2020 election of widespread voter fraud, of which there is no evidence. And when Russian troops attacked the Ukrainian capital as a result of an invasion that was widely condemned by Western leaders, Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin “smart.”
“Of course he’s smart,” Trump said, doubting the praise for the Russian leader, which many other Republicans avoided after the invasion. “But the real problem is that our leaders are stupid. Mute. So stupid. “
Although Trump expressed support for the Ukrainian people and called President Vladimir Zelensky a “brave man,” he also noted his ties to other leading autocrats. He noted his friendship with Xi Jinping of China and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Then Trump left no doubt that he is the most powerful voice in Republican politics, showing that he will run for president for the third time in 2024. “We’ve done it twice, and we’ll do it again,” Trump said. “We will do it again, for the third time.”
Prior to Trump’s appearance, the lie about election fraud, the focus of last year’s conference, was a belated thought among keynote speakers. No one has imitated Trump’s approving rhetoric toward Putin. And some leading Republicans haven’t even mentioned Trump’s name.
Instead, those most likely to push for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 without Trump’s name have united on an agenda that includes greater parental control over schools, opposition to pandemic-related mandates, and harsh rejection. culture of “waking up”. A message from more than half a dozen elected officials delivered to thousands of predominantly white activists at an event that usually honors far-right rhetoric does not mean the party has turned away from Trumpism.
Far from it. The former president was a frequent topic among low-profile conference speakers. T-shirts with the words “Trump won” were sold in the corridors. Trump is expected to be declared the overwhelming winner of the 2024 CPAC presidential election on Sunday.
However, conference organizer Matt Shlap, chairman of the American Conservative Union, noted that Trump does not have an absolute bloc based on his party.
He pointed to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, in particular, who was a favorite of the crowd during the first three days of the four-day conference. Viewers applauded almost every time DeSantis’s name was mentioned or his photo appeared on the big screens.
“Trump looks great,” Shlap said in an interview. “No. 1: Is he running again? And it’s impressive that people want that. But opinions are different. “
And while Trump’s most controversial supporters tended to be given space for lower-profile speeches during the four-day program, they weren’t ruled out. Major General Taylor Green, of Georgia, appeared on Saturday morning’s panel hours after she was presented at a conference of white nationalists advocating for Trump.
Trump offered Taylor Green especially warm cries during his speech as he noted the Republican officials present.
“I refuse to shut up,” Taylor Green said shortly earlier in the day, speaking out against the Communist Democrats.
Despite Trump’s dominance at the helm of the Republican Party, other party leaders are increasingly optimistic, they have found a promising strategy to overcome pro-Trump extremism and increase the party’s attractiveness by putting control of Congress at stake in November.
Essentially, this is the same textbook that Virginia Gov. Yangkin, a Republican governor, used last fall when he won in the swing state, avoiding Trump and his greatest grievances, including the misconception that the 2020 presidential election was charged with mass voter fraud.
“There are people who may have never voted in the same way as any of you in the presidential race, and they are really angry,” Florida Sen. Mark Rubio said Friday. “And so I believe that with all the negativity we’ve heard, the pendulum is swinging.”
Democrats are holding on to a small majority in the House and Senate, and voter sentiment has changed for them in a sinister direction since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021. In an AP-NORC poll conducted Feb. 18-21, 70% of Americans said the country was moving in the wrong direction. Only 44% said the same thing in April 2021.
It seemed that some leading Republicans were going to the CPAC not to help Democrats by accepting Trump.
Missouri Sen. Josh Howley, who tried to block a claim of Biden’s election victory after the January 6 attack on the Capitol, has bypassed whether he will challenge Trump in a future match in 2024.
“I said I had no plans to run for president,” Hawley said. He also declined to say whether he wants Trump to run again in 2024: “I never give him advice, including on this issue.”
Hawley also said Republicans such as Trump were wrong to gently praise Putin. “Putin is our enemy. Let’s clarify that, ”Hawley said.
DeSantis, who also refused to rule out a presidential bid in 2024 when Trump will run, did not mention the former president in his 20-minute speech, focusing instead on his opposition to the mask and vaccine mandate.
Former Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke about his work in the Trump administration, but did not reiterate his recent flattering comments about Putin, in which he called the Russian leader “very capable” and said he “very much respects him.”
South Dakota Gov. Christie Noem, who is considered a potential ally of Trump in 2024, spoke of the 2016 presidential election and baseless allegations that Democrats in power “spied” on Trump’s campaign. But she quickly turned to the future.
“We have some fantastic fighters such as President Donald Trump. But he is not alone. The American people are on our side, ”Noah said.