At the CPAC forum, Trump shows why it will be difficult to ascend | Donald Trump News

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Reminders of former US President Donald Trump’s massive influence on the Republican Party were everywhere at this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) near Washington, DC.

There were booths hawking Trump hats and shirts, attendees sporting “Make America Great Again” stickers and even a mock Oval Office where attendees could be photographed next to Trump’s portrait.

The three-day conference showed the iron grip he has on the base of the right wing of his party and how difficult it could be for an opponent to nominate Trump as the Republican president in 2024.

Meanwhile, it remains an open question whether Trump’s appeal still extends beyond his die-hard loyalists. Public opinion polls show that many Republicans are looking for an alternative, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, believing they may have a better chance of winning the White House.

Trump was the closing speaker for Saturday’s event. “We are going to finish what we started,” he said. “We are going to complete the mission. ” The capacity crowd in the ballroom chanted, “Four more years!”.

While Trump and his supporters held out at CPAC, DeSantis, who has yet to announce a presidential run, was busy burning his national profile and connecting with campaign donors. top dollar.

He spoke at Republican fundraisers in Houston and Dallas and is scheduled to give a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California on Sunday.

DeSantis also attended a rally for Republican donors in Florida held by the anti-tax group Club for Growth, to which Trump was not invited.

While he has spoken at events in the past, DeSantis skipped CPAC this time. Nevertheless, its effect could be noticeable.

Multiple speakers spoke about pushing back against “wokeness,” diversity and equity plans in education and transgender student athletes, key topics for DeSantis, who is rooted among conservatives on throughout the country.

However, the event weighed heavily on Trump. The list of speakers was packed with Trump supporters such as US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, longtime allies including his former campaign adviser Steve Bannon, and members of the Trump family, who would often receiving higher opinions than the professionals who spoke.

Kari Lake, who lost her bid for governor in Arizona last year and is a staunch supporter of Trump’s false claims that the 2020 presidential election was full of fraud, was given a key talking point, as Jair Bolsonaro, the most far-right ex-president. from Brazil.

Both complained that their elections were stolen and both received a standing ovation from the attendees.

In contrast, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, also seeking the Republican nomination, received a modest, if skeptical, response from the crowd, as did former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a presidential contender. another possible sitting. Haley was met with chants of “Trump” in the hallway outside the ballroom where she gave her speech.

Haley and Pompeo raised loud cheers as they detailed the Trump administration’s accomplishments.

In his comments, Bannon said Trump should be the Republican nominee, saying DeSantis and other opponents lack experience. “We don’t have time for on-the-job training,” he said.

Trump and DeSantiare are expected in the coming days to visit Iowa, which will hold the first Republican nomination contest next year.

CPAC was once the party’s main gathering of Republicans in Washington, DC, but recently it has come under the control of Trump and his supporters to the point that it was skipped this year by the big -some Republican members of Congress and Republican governors of the country. Many speakers spoke to a half-empty ballroom and attendance seemed to be significantly lower than in years past.

Marleen Beck, 71, of Howard County, Maryland, said she would stand by Trump after voting for him twice. “Ron DeSantis is a good governor for Florida, but I don’t think he’s the person to run the country,” she said.

Beck said she attended Trump’s speech in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021, when his supporters stormed the US Capitol and argued that he did not deserve any blame for what happened. Several attendees wore shirts commemorating Ashli ​​Babbitt, who was killed by police inside the Capitol building.

Lisa Friedman, 54, of Colchester, Vermont, was selling Trump T-shirts in the showroom and wore one herself that read: “Ultra MAGA”.

She said DeSantis should stay out of the race. “I think it should wait until next time,” she said.

But Riley Kass, 24, of Cassopolis, Michigan, said he voted for Trump in 2020 but kept an open mind about the upcoming primary. “I think competition is good,” Kass said, adding that he wished DeSantis had attended the conference.

Hogan Gidley, who was a White House spokesman for Trump, said that the support given by rank and file Republicans to Trump at the event showed why he would be an outstanding candidate.

“These are the people who are responsible for preventing and reacting to win you elections, especially in the early primary states,” Gidley said.

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