“I stand before you today to declare that the incredible journey we began together four years ago is far from over,” Trump is expected to say in Orlando, Florida, according to excerpts of his remarks released before the speech.
In his first public comments since leaving the White House, Trump plans to target President Joe Biden, attacking his immigration policies and demanding that he “get the schools open right now.”
“The future of the Republican Party is as a party that defends the social, economic, and cultural interests and values of working American families — of every race, every color, and every creed. Republicans believe that the needs of everyday citizens must come first,” the former President plans to say.
Trump won the unscientific straw poll of CPAC attendees when they were asked who they favored as 2024 GOP presidential candidates. But the results suggest that there is interest in other potential candidates. Two polls were conducted, one that included Trump’s name and one that did not. In the straw poll that included Trump, 55% of attendees said they preferred the former President as their nominee for 2024, another 21% favored Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, while South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was third with 4%.
In a second poll that excluded Trump, DeSantis was far ahead of the other contenders at the event that took place in his home state. In that poll, 43% of CPAC attendees supported DeSantis, a close ally of Trump. Noem was second with 11%, followed by Donald Trump Jr. at 8%, then former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz with 7% each.
The overwhelming majority of CPAC attendees who participated in the gathering’s informal surveys said they approved of the job that Trump did as president. But only 68% said they wanted him to run again in 2024; 15% said they don’t want the former President to vie for the GOP nomination and 17% said they were unsure — indicating the opening for a fresh face within the party.
“If we idolize one person, we will lose,” the Louisiana Republican told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” “And that’s kind of clear from the last election.”
“That’s going to be a decision he’s going to have to make down the road. I do know he’s committed to helping us win back majorities in 2022, which is, of course, what I’m focused on right now,” she said.
Foreshadowing Trump’s influence on the 2022 races, McCarthy lavished praise on Trump during a Saturday panel at CPAC, crediting him with Republicans’ better-than-expected showing in the 2020 House races: “We got closer than anybody thought we could get… No one said we’d win seats,” McCarthy said of GOP efforts to win the majority last November. “But this is the little secret. You know why we won that? President Trump worked on all these races.”
Indiana GOP Rep. Jim Banks, the chairman of an influential group of House conservatives, took a shot at Republicans who have been disloyal to Trump during the same panel, warning that efforts to curtail his influence could harm the party in 2022 as they try to regain the majority in the US House and the Senate.
“There’s very few Republicans — the least popular in our party are the ones who want to erase Donald Trump and Donald Trump’s supporters from our party,” said Banks, who represents a solidly red district in northeast Indiana. “Let me tell you if that happens, we won’t win back to majority in 2022. We definitely won’t win back the White House in 2024 if we erase Donald Trump.”
That certainty about Trump’s reign in the Republican Party will embolden the former President as he seeks to put his imprint on the upcoming elections. After raising millions of dollars off his false claims of election fraud, Trump is weighing the creation of a new super PAC that could raise unlimited amounts of money with very few restrictions, CNN’s Fredreka Schouten and Jim Acosta reported Saturday.
In the discussions with aides about the 2022 midterms and future election cycles, Trump has been weighing how to exact revenge on the House members and Senators who cast impeachment votes against him — and the new committees could serve as his vehicle for doing that.
Fealty to Trump
The deference to the former President after the events of January 6 that stunned the world has underscored Trump’s firm command of the party’s base even as much of America recoiled from his election lies and his dangerous maneuvering to overthrow the democratic process.
Trump’s speech at CPAC will also give him another shot at revisionist history about his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic not long after the nation marked 500,000 deaths from coronavirus. Speakers at the political conference have largely panned President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package, which narrowly passed the House early Saturday morning with all Republicans and two Democrats opposing the bill.
CPAC attendees stood to applaud Noem when she criticized Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, Saturday. “I don’t know if you agree with me, but Dr. Fauci is wrong a lot,” the former congresswoman said.
Noem has risen to prominence within the GOP over the past year by refusing to issue stay-at-home orders in her sparsely populated state and rejecting calls for government mask mandates.
“In South Dakota, I provided all of the information that we had to our people and then I trusted them to make the best decisions for themselves, for their families and, in turn, their communities,” Noem said Saturday. “We have to show people how arbitrary these restrictions are — and the coercion, the force and the anti-liberty steps that governments take to enforce them.”
Biden offered a diametrically different message about fighting the virus on Saturday morning as he hailed the passage of his relief package in the House: “We have no time to waste. If we act now, decisively, quickly and boldly, we can finally get ahead of this virus.”
“We can finally get our economy moving again, and the people of this country have suffered far too much for too long,” Biden said in remarks at the White House. “We need to relieve that suffering.”
This story has been updated.
Jim Acosta and Eric Bradner contributed to this report.