With doubts long dispelled, conservatives see Trump as leader and dream of comeback
WASHINGTON – In March 2016, Donald Trump snubbed the large Tory rally known as CPAC, fearing activists would boo him.
At that time, he was the favorite to take on Hillary Clinton. Speaker after speaker, he skewered him in absentia, warning that time was running out to protect the GOP nomination for a more reliable Conservative.
“His choice sends a clear message to conservatives,” chided the US Conservative Union, which hosts the Conservative Political Action Conference.
A year later, Trump returned to CPAC in triumph, covering the 10 miles from the White House via Marine One, a spectacle more grandiose than a short trip in a presidential procession.
The victory helped dispel reservations, and the next four years cemented the affection of the Tories.
CPAC is in Dallas this weekend, making the Hilton Anatole the temporary Capitol of Trump Country. Cheers burst forth at the mention of his name. Red “Make America Great Again” hats are commonplace, as are “Trump Won” t-shirts.
When the 45th President arrives Sunday afternoon to speak, he will be greeted as the leader of the movement and the party – and rightful occupant of the White House.
âI’m just going to say it. The election was stolen. I have no doubts about it, âsaid Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who is also an adviser to Trump. As for the evolution of the Trump-CPAC relationship, he said, âNeither has changed. Trump has proven himself. This is what has changed.
Trump in four years has curbed immigration, built hundreds of miles of border wall, cut taxes and regulations, reshaped the federal court system, and appointed at least a third of the United States Supreme Court, putting a conservative seal on the high court which will last a generation.
âEveryone was skeptical when he first ran,â Miller said. “Now that he’s proven himself and one of the most conservative and successful presidents in our lives, people have learned to ignore mean tweets and other character flaws that most people have.” would agree he might have. They certainly like his policies. They were fantastic.
The Conservatives spent eight years out of power during the Obama era. At CPAC 2017, at a sprawling Gaylord resort in National Harbor, Md., Outside Washington, a newly inaugurated Trump introduced himself as their savior.
âNow you finally have a president, finally,â Trump told a loud crowd who chanted, âBuild the wall! And, at the mention of Clinton, “Lock her up!” “
Trump has been idolized at CPAC ever since. The base loves Trump, and CPAC is the base distillation.
“I tell you what, I miss President Donald Trump,” Senator Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Told Anatole, eliciting a roar of approval. âWe need to restore President Trump’s America First agenda. â¦ He held the Chinese Communists responsible for the Wuhan coronavirus.
âI can’t tell you what Donald Trump is going to do in 2024,â said his state campaign co-chair Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. âIn Texas, we are with President Trump. â¦ In 2024, Trumpism will return!
It also drew cheers.
The Dallas CPAC appearance is part of a striptease that began at CPAC in Orlando in late February and now also includes campaign style rallies.
The only obvious agenda is to keep supporters edgy and loyal, so Trump can punish Republicans who voted to impeach him, maintain his control over the party, and help recapture the House and Senate in the midterm elections of 2022.
On purpose or not, these appearances also freeze the ground for 2024, forcing potential rivals such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – who overtook Trump in a CPAC poll in Orlando – to be cautious lest they don’t incur his anger before they come together. enough money and allies to survive an assault.
Only one of those hopes, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, has signed up to speak at CPAC Dallas, leaving an unusual void at a rally to which aspiring Republicans have flocked for years.
“I would say he has a more than 50% chance of showing up,” Conservative Union American President Matt Schlapp said. âBut I think he’s put that on hold and is focusing on those majorities in Congress. And I think that’s the right thing to do.
If all goes as hoped, Schlapp said, “He will get a lot of credit, and probably the most credit, for getting those majorities back.”
Trump has been invested in this effort, raising funds, supporting candidates and organizing rallies with dual functions – highlighting certain races while weeding out potential rivals.
At the two rallies he has held since leaving office and retreating to his Mar-a-Lago compound, last weekend in Sarasota, Fla., And June 26 in the Ohio, Trump downplayed the January 6 violence when thousands of frenzied supporters were sacked. by him – stormed the United States Capitol in hopes of preventing Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election as President.
Trump also reiterated refuted claims about his defeat.
âWe have won the election twice,â he told a large crowd on June 26 at a fair near Cleveland. âWe may have to win it a third time. “
In Anatole’s expansive lobby, not far from iconic elephant statues, Debbie Billingsly snapped a photo with Rep. Madison Cawthorn, RN.C.
She wore a “Trump 2024” button and put it at “1000%” that he is the undisputed leader of the party. She is just as certain that he will run again.
“Absolutely. Of course he won’t say it yet,” said Billingsly, 67, an interior designer from Van Alstyne, north of McKinney, after her husband, Paul, took the picture. But “he organized rallies and he’s working really hard to get the house back. “
(Moments later, Cawthorn raised his eyebrows as he claimed that a new door-to-door campaign by the Biden administration to expand the COVID-19 vaccination was actually a Trojan horse – a rap for one. government bibles and firearms confiscation program.)
As to whether Trump won, Billingsly said, âHe did. He absolutely did, and the people that don’t believe it just aren’t engaged, and they haven’t paid attention to what has taken place. Everything will come out, one state at a time. But listen, they know it. We know it. Democrats know what they’ve done. This was expected with these machines a long time ago.
A recurring topic of conversation at CPAC is whether Trump could be reinstated as president, possibly even next month.
âIt should be,â Billingsly said, adding that maybe if Republicans get Congress back halfway through, it could happen. “It’s never happened before, but hey, it’s never been stolen before.”
Miller, the state agriculture commissioner, said Trump himself raised the possibility at a dinner party in April.
“He kind of indicated that, you know, this Arizona deal could be the break that we need to bring down the house of cards,” Miller said, referring to a privately funded recount in Phoenix, where election officials dismiss allegations of fraud. “So I said, ‘Mr. President, if this happens, who is going to remove Biden from office? You can not. You are not the president. You must have someone who can take it off, so who is it? ‘ He did not answer me.
âWe’ll see. We’ll see. We’re a long way from that,â Miller said.
âPresident Trump is the flag bearer of the Republican Party,â said Phil Rizzo, a pastor from Hoboken who was a finalist in the New Jersey GOP primary for governor a month ago.
The winner, a moderate who called Trump a “charlatan” in 2015, may have lost if several pro-Trump candidates had not divided the voices.
âPeople are very serious about President Trump in New Jersey,â said Rizzo, who also maintains that Trump was cheated in the election. âI don’t live in a culture where I don’t have the right to believe what my eyes see. â¦ The truth will come out, but there have been so many irregularities.