Former President Donald Trump continues to dominate the conservative wing of the Republican party, taking part in the four-day annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Closing the convention, Trump presented himself as the ultimate leader to take on “establishment” Democrats and Republicans and called the upcoming 2024 presidential election the “final battle.”
“In 2016, I declared that I am your voice. Today I add: I am your warrior. I am your justice, and for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution,” Trump said as he continues to reinforce his own. third presidential campaign.
“This is the final battle, they know it. I know it, you know it, and everybody knows it, that’s it. Either they win or we win. And if they win, we no longer have a country.”
Throughout his speech, Trump proclaimed himself the leader who would “save” America while working to create a contrast between himself and “establishment” Republicans.
“People are tired of the RINOs and the globalists; they want to see America first. That’s what they want. It’s not too complicated,” Trump said.
“The Republican Party has been run by freaks, neocons, zealots and open border fools. We will never go back to the party of Paul Ryan, Karl Rove and Jeb Bush.”
Trump then attacked Republicans who want to raise the Social Security retirement age.
“We will not go back to people who want to destroy our great Social Security system. Even some in our own party, I wonder who that might be. Who want to raise the minimum age for Social Security to 70, 75 or even 80 in some cases, and then a path to cut Medicare to a level that will no longer be recognizable,” he said.
In a preview of his agenda if elected president, Trump focused on the usual array of conservative issues that included: border security, using the National Guard “until law and order is restored” and fighting for a constitutional amendment to enforce term limits. members of Congress.
He also spoke about his recently announced competition to build new ‘freedom cities’.
“I will challenge the governors of all 50 states, all 50 states to join me in a great beautification campaign. We will rename our schools and avenues, not after Communists but after great American patriots. We will get rid of bad and ugly buildings and return to the great classical style of Western civilization,” he said.
But in a reversal, Trump endorsed mail-in ballots, early voting and ballot harvesting while highlighting Cary Lake’s failed gubernatorial bid in Arizona.
“I will move heaven and earth to finally secure our elections. All Republican governors should immediately go for paper ballots, one day voting and voter ID…they should go for it, paper ballots, voting on same day,” he said.
“Republicans have to compete using every legal means to win. That means we have to put it to the left on mail-in votes, early voting and Election Day votes. We have to change our thinking because some bad things have happened.”
Trump has played down the credibility of multiple investigations into which he is conducting, but he particularly targeted the Fulton County investigation into his bid to overturn the 2020 election after the leader spoke to the media.
“Jury worker, a rather strange young woman does media interviews and says exactly what’s going on, one of many committees. Our opponents are doing everything they can to hurt me politically because they’re afraid of me and they’re afraid of you, that is”.
Speaking to reporters ahead of his speech for the first time, Trump said Saturday that he would “absolutely” stay in the presidential race even if he faces criminal charges.
“I wouldn’t even think about leaving,” Trump told reporters before his speech. “It’ll probably boost my numbers.”
Trump encouraged supporters to stay active in his movement, saying now is the time to “rebuild” America and make it “strong again.”
“Change will only happen if we fearlessly plow ahead and declare with one voice that the age of vigilante and armed government is over. This is our duty, this is our mission, and this is the turning point and the time for this decision because, as you’ve probably heard me say before, we will not back down, we will not bend, we will not give up, we will not retreat,” he said.
Trump made no specific mention of his potential Republican challenges, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSandis and former Vice President Mike Pence. However, he joked to reporters “the more the merrier” when asked about challengers jumping into the race.
“That’s up to him,” he said when asked specifically about DeSantis. “He wouldn’t have been elected if it wasn’t for me, but that’s up to him… I welcome everyone.”
Trump dominates DeSantis in straw poll
Unsurprisingly, Trump won the annual CPAC poll by a landslide, taking 62% of the vote — down slightly from the last CPAC in Texas when he won 69% of the vote — but still far ahead.
DeSantis came in second with 20% of the vote. Perry Johnson, a businessman who announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination this week, received 5 percent of the vote, coming in third. Haley got 3%.
However, although the crowd favored Trump overwhelmingly, the former president failed to fill all the seats in the ballroom during his speech with the back of the room almost completely empty.
Some attendees predicted the results would have been different if the CPAC crowd had allowed for more diversity in the Republican Party, after former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Trump’s most high-profile challenger, had been kicked out of the hotel hallways a day earlier than Trump supporters. .
“Right now, it’s very skewed, it’s very Trump-centric here,” said Orlando Clark, a student at Penn State. “If we had these other candidates here, the results of the straw poll could certainly be different…but when only one side is represented, it kind of skews the results to the point where now, it’s not even representative of more of the half of the party”.
“Not everyone is determined that Donald Trump is going to be our nominee right now. I mean, I know for sure that I’m not,” he added. “If he wins, then great, but I’m still not over it. I don’t think he’s the best person to run.”
“There’s a lot of support for Trump here. I’m sure the poll will reflect that, but I don’t think that’s a good thing, because we need different options,” said Hunter Stitch, another Penn State student. “I think younger leaders like Ron DeSandis stand in stark contrast to people like Trump, like Biden,” he later added.
The straw poll also asked participants about their top choices for vice president. Lake, who clung to the stolen election throughout her CPAC appearances, came in first with 19.6 percent of the vote. DeSantis came in second with 14%.