Trump’s highly anticipated remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) followed six weeks of absence from the public spotlight and served to clear up uncertainties about his political plans and the fate of the conservative movement and about rumors that the president may start a third political party.
Trump disavowed the third-party idea, while laying claim to the GOP throne. He outlined a party platform focused on restoring election integrity, reopening schools, stopping illegal immigration, standing up to China, and breaking up big tech monopolies, among other issues. The president also set the groundwork to exert influence over the Republican National Committee (RNC) via the pocketbook by channeling donations toward his cause to the DonaldJTrump.com website and his Save America political action committee.
“President Trump’s speech at CPAC cemented his spot as the leader of the Republican Party and laid down the gauntlet against Biden and his left-wing policy agenda,” Andy Surabian, a Republican strategist and spokesman for Donald Trump Jr., told The Epoch Times. “His speech should serve as a roadmap for other Republicans on how to stand up to Biden and his left-wing allies over the next four years.”
Trump delivered the closing speech at CPAC, where he has spoken regularly since before he announced his run for the presidency in 2015. The annual conservative conference is the biggest of its kind and serves as a stomping ground for Republicans eyeing a White House run.
Even before he spoke, the mood and rhetoric at CPAC suggested that Trump was both the king and kingmaker of the conservative movement. Speeches and panels were devoid of any criticisms of the president, while mentions of his name frequently drew applause from the crowd.
“Trump is the leader of the GOP for one reason and one reason alone. Trump has been able to energize the Republican base that was dormant for so many years,” George Santos, a Republican running for Congress in New York, told The Epoch Times.
“This is a man of the people, and it’s ironic it took a billionaire to become the man of the people. But this is a man who’s leading with his might, with his wisdom, and with his charisma. That speech solidifies that there’s no other person in this party that can get everybody to shut up and listen.”
The results of a straw poll that were announced before Trump’s speech confirmed what was becoming more obvious over the course of the conference. Ninety-seven percent of the attendees surveyed approved of Trump’s job performance and 95 percent said they want the Republican Party to continue with his policies.
Nearly seven in 10 said they want Trump to run again in 2024.
“The intensity of the support for President Trump is just through the roof. We’ve never seen anything like this,” Jim McLaughlin, a pollster for Trump who conducted the CPAC survey, told NTD Television. “President Trump is the conservative movement now.
“He hadn’t seen the poll until he got here today, but he hit on most of the issues that were really important to the conservative movement.”
The support of the conservative base won’t be the only lever Trump will have over the GOP apparatus. During the speech, the president called on his followers to donate using his website and his PAC. According to Rich Baris, the director of Big Data Poll, the move hands Trump leverage over the RNC, which will likely take a financial hit as a result.
“If he wanted to, he could basically bankrupt them into submission,” Baris told The Epoch Times. “I know there’s a lot of people in the Trump world who are rightfully angry with how the RNC raised so much money when they were jointly connected and did not appropriate it right or definitely didn’t appropriate it to the efforts that they said they would, like election integrity.”
“There’s another element to this—the hidden horse race—which is the money race. The RNC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, if these guys can’t raise money because Donald Trump is sucking all the oxygen out of the room, they’re in a lot of trouble because their candidates are relying on their support.”
Santos said the move sends a message that will force the RNC to acknowledge that the committee needs Trump “more than they understand.”
“This is a great example of how he is a more powerful individual than the party actually is, at this juncture,” Santos said.
The president hinted at a potential run for the White House in 2024. According to Baris, the tease was a message to the Republican Party establishment, which will have to deal with another Trump candidacy unless they fall in line with his agenda. Others believe that even if Trump doesn’t end up running, he will still be the ultimate endorsement.
“Whether Trump ends up running and is on the ticket in 2024 or not, he will be the kingmaker,” Jason Meister, a member of the Trump 2020 campaign advisory board, told The Epoch Times.
According to data from VFT-Solutions shared by Meister on Twitter, Trump’s speech drew more than 30 million views across several social media platforms, a testament to the president’s enduring popularity.
“President Trump was able to energize and mobilize a bloc of voters the GOP hasn’t traditionally reached, and we saw massive enthusiasm from his base across the country when he spoke at CPAC,” North Carolina GOP Chairman Michael Whatley told The Epoch Times.
“His message of unleashing the economy, rebuilding our military, and putting America First is here to stay in the Republican Party, and his ability to mobilize voters will be critical in winning back the House and Senate in 2022.”
Melina Wisecup contributed to this report.