Donald Trump’s presidency is over and his Twitter feed silenced, but at the first major Conservative rally of the year, the message is clear: Mr. Trump is here to stay.
Elected officials and activists who spoke on day one of the Annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held in Florida this year focused on restrictions on COVID-19, the so-called cancellation culture , the way the 2020 elections were administered and the threats they see from democratic politics. While there was virtually no mention of the attack on Capitol Hill last month, speakers denounced the “liberal crowd” and the summer riots.
The conference does not feature open criticism of the former president, so praise for Mr. Trump, who still has the support of most GOP voters, was a theme of the opening day.
“There are a lot of voices in Washington who just want to erase the past four years,” Texas Senator Ted Cruz told the crowd. “Let me tell you right now: Donald J. Trump is not going anywhere.”
Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton told the story of an immigrant attributing his economic success to the former president and celebrated Mr. Trump’s ability to attract Latino voters in the 2020 election.
And Missouri Senator Josh Hawley received a standing ovation when he voiced his objection to the election results to the crowd on Jan.6. He slammed Twitter for banning Trump and ended his speech with: “America now, America first, America forever.”
Many speakers urged the Republican Party not to go back to its pre-Trump origins and criticized some of the policies former GOP leaders pushed.
“We won’t win the future by trying to get back to where the Republican Party was,” said Florida Senator Rick Scott, who is also chairing the Republican Senate campaign operation. “If we do, we will lose the basis of work that President Trump has so animated. We are going to lose elections across the country and, in the end, we are going to lose our nation.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, due for re-election in 2022, has made his mark on conservatives going forward, saying the party rejects open borders, “weakness” against China and “military adventurism.”
“We will not go back to the days of the failure of the Republican establishment of yesteryear,” he said. “Hold the line, hold on, and never back down, ever.”
Hawley told CPAC attendees that they “represent what’s to come.”
“To people who tell us, ‘Oh, you’re from the past. Your moment has passed, it’s over. This is Joe Biden’s America now, “” he said. “I just want to say, ‘we are not the past. We are the future, “” he said.
At the event, Hawley carried widespread criticism of his objection to the Electoral College’s vote count on January 6 as a badge of honor.
“I was called a traitor, I was called a seditionist,” he said of the reaction to his vote. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m just standing here. I’ll stand up for you, because if we can’t have a free and open debate in this country, there will not be a country left.” Its wording echoed a remark. said by Mr. Trump to his supporters that day: “If you don’t fight like hell, you won’t have a country.”
Nearly a dozen speakers at the event were mentioned as possible 2024 presidential candidates. “For a second there, I thought we were in Des Moines,” Cruz joked of Training.
Cotton, among the likely White House hopefuls, has suggested Republicans may not run against Biden in four years. “They want to give amnesty to 15 to 20 million illegal aliens. Without any conditions, with the right to vote – presumably in time for what they hope will be Kamala Harris’ re-election campaign,” he said. he says.
But as a list of Republicans vie to improve their profile, it is Mr. Trump who is the renowned speaker, ready to make his first public remarks since leaving the conference on Sunday.
Mr. Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr. joked that the conference should be called “TPAC” because of the former president’s support among the public. He offered a brief preview of his father’s speech, telling the crowd, “I imagine it won’t be what we call a ‘low energy’ speech. And I assure you that will solidify Donald Trump and all your feelings about MAGA. Movement as the future of the Republican Party. “
Polls show that Mr. Trump still holds the base of the Republican Party firmly. A Suffolk University / USA Today poll released earlier this week found that nearly 6 in 10 Trump supporters said they would like to see him run for president again in 2024 and 76% said that they would vote for him if he sought the Republican nomination.
Notable speakers on Saturday include Florida Senator Marco Rubio, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who have been put forward as potential 2024 presidential candidates.