CPAC: Trump Republicans Unveil Battle Plan for Ron DeSandis – Will It Work?

Jtwo years ago after Donald Trump was helicoptered out of the White House instead of greeting Joe Biden and accompanying him to his inauguration, one of three Republicans who hope Biden will greet them on the White House steps in January 2025, he asked a group of GOP activists in a hotel room not far from Washington.

The candidate, Vivek Ramaswamy, made his way through throngs of college-aged Conservative Political Action Conference attendees who had been lured to his 18th-floor hotel suite with promises of free food and drink. After the crowd had quieted down enough, the former biotech entrepreneur turned into an anti-awakening expert who launched into a three-minute explanation of his theory about what the next year of the presidential campaign will be.

“This year it’s the what and the why, what do we stand for as a movement? Why do we support it?’ he said.

Last week at CPAC, in panels and public speeches by Trumpworld dignitaries, it was clear that the GOP still firmly represents Donald J Trump. Mr. Trump’s dominance was evident despite Florida Gov. Ron DeSandis making the rounds to promote his new political memoir, often an early warning sign of an impending campaign.

The 45th president’s status as both a front-runner for the GOP nomination and the subject of multiple federal and state criminal investigations seemed unfazed by most of the Maga faithful who flock to the Washington DC suburbs to hear a who’s who of far-right opinion about the evils of the left and the wonder of Mr. Trump and the policies he favors.

The grievance carries the most weight in today’s GOP, and with few exceptions, the CPAC main stage has been a place to entertain it, not indulge in any dissent from that worldview. Mr. DeSantis was almost an afterthought, as the three-day conference celebrates the former president day by day. The mega-Maga crowd seemed to suggest that Mr. DeSantis – despite his conservative bona fides he won from a duel with Disney – was not much of a threat to the former president.

That much was clear when the annual congressional poll was released ahead of Mr. Trump’s speech. As expected, the former president dominated – garnering 62% of the vote, while Mr DeSantis garnered just 20%. However, some respondents were open to Mr. DeSantis as Mr. Trump’s running mate.

“Thank you for the beautiful straw poll. This was a great victory,” Mr. Trump said in thanks on Saturday night.

President Donald Trump talks to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, during a visit to Lake Okeechobee and Herbert Hoover Dike at Canal Point, Fla., March 29, 2019.

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President Donald Trump talks with Florida Gov. Ron DeSandis, left, during a visit to Lake Okeechobee and the Herbert Hoover Dike in Canal Point, Florida, March 29, 2019.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Mr Trump’s challengers – real and potential – have dared to criticize him or his former administration in the broadest terms. The assembled speakers avoided a passing mention of Mr Trump’s name except in praise, such as when Mr Ramaswamy described the former president as a “friend”.

Mike Pompeo, who spent Trump’s tenure as CIA director and secretary of state, came close to attacking his former boss on personal terms, telling CPAC attendees that conservatives “can’t become leftists by following leaders celebrities with their own identity politics — those with fragile egos who refuse to acknowledge reality.”

“We cannot shift the blame to others, but we must accept the responsibility of those of us who are stepping forward and leading,” he added.

He also appeared to take aim at another potential Trump challenger, Mr DeSandis, when he said Republicans should not “give this administration more power under the guise of conservatism” or “seek larger-than-life personalities”. .

Mr. DeSantis, who spoke at CPAC last year when it was held in Orlando, was not on the roster of GOP leaders who took the stage in Maryland this weekend. Instead, he has embarked on a book tour of early states to sell his memoir, The courage to be free.

Most polls of Republican primary voters show Mr. Trump maintaining a strong lead over Mr. DeSandis, and the former president still has a firm grip on the hearts and minds of much of the Democratic Party.

A booth selling hats is seen at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, cheers during the session, at the National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Md., Thursday, March 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

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A booth selling hats is seen at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, cheers during the session, at National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Md., Thursday, March 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)


But at the same time, party elites have pegged Mr. DeSantis as someone who can advance Trump’s grievance agenda against all things “woke.”

The Florida governor, along with Pompeo, Ramaswamy, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununnu, spent part of the weekend at an exclusive conference organized by the conservative Club for Growth. Apparently, Mr. Trump was not invited.

One of Mr. Trump’s staunchest supporters, MyPillow CEO Mike Liddell, spoke about Mr. DeSantis near his booth on the CPAC floor, accusing the Florida governor of being a “Trojan horse” for the left.

“The media is covering Ron DeSantis — it’s a Trojan Horse. is the Trojan Horse. Don’t believe anything you read in the media about Ron DeSantis,” he said.

But Mr Lindell was extreme in his enthusiasm for attacking Trump’s potential challenger in such direct terms.

Other activists and pro-Trump figures who were at CPAC took a more conciliatory line, praising DeSantis but suggesting he was not ready to ascend to the presidency.


Steve Bannon, a former adviser to Mr. Trump who now hosts a popular right-wing podcast, said Mr. DeSantis is a capable governor and did not attack him openly, but at CPAC he said Trump is the one Republicans should unite with . He “gave Americans four years of peace and prosperity” and is ready to take over as president once again.

“We don’t have time for on-the-job training,” he said.

He also used his own congressional speaking slot to attack Fox News, which gave Mr. DeSantis a prominent platform while largely ignoring the former president.

“Note to Fox News senior management: When Donald J. Trump speaks, it’s remarkable,” he said. “The Murdochs must immediately start covering for President Trump. No special offers, just cover the man, ask the tough questions. But we must listen to the voice of Donald J. Trump.”

Former Trump adviser and Donald Trump Jr’s fiancee Kimberly Guilfoyle poses with election conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell at CPAC on 2 March 2023.

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Former Trump adviser and fiancée of Donald Trump Jr. Kimberly Guilfoyle poses with election conspiracy theorist Mike Liddell at CPAC on March 2, 2023.

(John Bowden / The Independent)

Mr. DeSantis, for his part, has been in something of a media blitz with Mr. Murdoch’s publications. Florida’s governor was the subject of a feature in the Times of London as well as a prominent article in Wall Street Journal. Mr Trump has lashed out at Mr Murdoch in recent days and there have been reports that Mr Trump is facing a “soft ban” at Fox News. The conservative network still dominates among GOP voters, far beyond the echoes of CPAC, and any candidate seeking the safe GOP nomination in 2024 needs the network’s support.

Fox aired Mr Trump’s speech on Saturday.

Blake Marnell, another prominent Trump supporter who often appears at his events wearing a suit that looks like a brick wall, said The independent Mr. DeSantis’ decision not to speak at CPAC was a good tactical move because he would lose the CPAC poll and look weak.

“I think he made a calculated choice not to come because he didn’t see a beneficial outcome for him,” he said.

Mr. Marnell added that Mr. DeSantis is “a very capable governor” who “runs his state very well.”

“He was a very good example of what a conservative governor in a Republican state can do to advance his state’s causes. And I see him as a model for what other Republican governors can become,” he said.

But Mr. Marnell suggested that Mr. DeSantis, who has operated with a loyal Republican legislature and without the glare of the national press, is untested and will not be ready to face the kind of opposition that Mr. .Trump.

“People who are opposed to the conservative president, which includes Democrats, which includes Antifa, which includes George Soros, which includes BLM, have seen that if they put pressure on them, they can delay the presidency by making false allegations and just throwing things. to the wall and making the president less effective in his agenda,” he said.

“I have no assurance that Ron DeSantis will be able to withstand that kind of pressure is durable, right. But Trump, they’ve had everything thrown against him, and he’s still standing, and he’s still the best choice. He has proven himself in that regard.”

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