Unlike the CPACs event in Orlando in February and the Faith & Freedom Coalitions conference in Nashville in June, the weekend gathering missed most of the non-Trump names put forward as potential candidates for 2024, albeit meaningless. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) were among the elected officials who spoke.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, August 5, 2022. | LM Otero/AP Photo
And though Trump’s dominance in the GOP has never been more threatened by a growing crop of ambitious Republicans, the event highlighted his continued appeal to party activists. A 2024 CPAC Texas attendee preference poll showed Trump leading with 69% support, 10 percentage points higher than at the February meeting in Florida. DeSantis came in second with 23%.
Trump’s approval rating among attendees was 99%. Survey methodology, including survey size and margin of error, was not provided.
I said the last two CPACs, I don’t think it can go any higher, said Jim McLaughlin, a Trump campaign pollster who leads the CPAC straw polls.
McLaughlin argued that the rally’s response proved Trump’s influence was not diminishing.
In fact, what’s happening is more popular than ever, McLaughlin said.
Taking the stage shortly after at the Hilton Anatole on Saturday night, Trump said the CPAC straw poll is a well-respected survey.
When you see those numbers, there’s a great sense of unity, Trump said. Not just CPAC, but I’m thinking of the Republican Party.
Yet while straw polls at other conservative activist rallies also showed Trump would start a 2024 primary campaign with a strong lead, a recent poll of the broader GOP electorate told a slightly different story. .
A Siena College/New York Times poll taken last month showed the former president had the support of just under half of Republican primary voters in a clash with several other candidates. Trump led with 49% of the vote, followed by DeSantis with 25%.
In a separate poll question removing Trump as an option for 2024, 59% of CPAC Texas attendees backed DeSantis for president, followed by 8% for Donald Trump Jr.
Trump on Saturday again teased a race. He falsely claimed he had won a presidential election twice, before adding that now we may have to start over.
But first, we must win a landslide victory in 2022, he said of the midterm elections, in which Republicans will try to regain control of both houses of Congress. Trump has been doling out endorsements across the country this year, but so far he has refused to put significant campaign funds behind the candidates he has chosen.
Not only were other potential 2024 rivals absent from the conference, but throughout the three-day meeting there was little talk about them. Speakers instead focused on Trump, largely not mentioning DeSantis or others as key party leaders.
The loudest voices spreading baseless allegations of voter fraud in 2020, allegations that have been repeatedly refuted in audits, official investigations and litigation have avoided discussing Pence, even to criticize him.
Steve Bannon, the former Trump campaign and White House strategist who was found guilty this week of contempt of Congress, presented at the conference a vision for the GOP’s coming years. That included more candidates like Kari Lake, who won the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Arizona this week after basing her campaign on debunked allegations of voter fraud. And, of course, that included Trump with a second term.
In 2024, we can actually have a filibuster-proof Senate. And the return of Donald J. Trump to the White House.
Bannon, who was recently convicted of two counts of refusing to cooperate with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, angered the crowd by suggesting that outside forces were trying to imprison Trump in an effort to prevent him from seeking the White House again.
They understand they can’t beat him at the polls, Bannon said. They can’t beat his energy. They can’t beat his vision. They’re coming out with a death by a thousand cuts legally, right, and trying to put him in jail to make sure he can’t run again in 2024 and be the legitimate president that he should be right now.
President Joe Biden won the 2020 election by flipping five states that Trump carried in 2016 and edging him nationally by 7 million votes.
In a statement to POLITICO after the straw poll, American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp spoke about Trump’s enduring prominence among conservatives.
There is an unbreakable bond between President Trump and the conservative movement, Schlapp said. He just did the things he promised to do and for that they will be eternally grateful.
On stage Saturday, British commentator and former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage told the crowd that Trump looked set for another run.
Farage, who recently visited Trump, told the CPAC audience that the former president appears to have lost 20 pounds since leaving office.
The weight of the world is rolling off his shoulders, Farage said. His nominees are winning the primaries, and I believe Donald Trump is the man to go out there and fight on behalf of America and the western world.
Scott, the Florida senator whose 12-Point Plan for America and corresponding ad campaign has been interpreted as a sign that he is laying the groundwork for a presidential election, received the most resounding applause in his speech when he requested that a border wall be named after President Donald J. Trump.
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