Tuesday 25 January 2022
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Trump at Florida CPAC: I’ll be back

In the post-CPAC meeting straw poll, nearly seven out of 10 of the Republicans who voted said they wanted to see Donald Trump back in 2024

Former US President Donald Trump hinted at a function on Sunday that he might run for president in 2024. He continued to insist that the 3 November 2020 election was rigged.

Speaking to his most ardent supporters at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, on Sunday, he declared he would not start an alternative political party. “I may even decide to beat them for a third time,” Trump told the cheering audience in an ostensible claim that he and not President Joe Biden was the real victor on 3 November 2020.

The 90-minute speech to the annual conservatives’ Woodstock was the first speech by Trump since he left Washington on 20 January.

“In true Trump fashion, he left open the question about whether he will run in 2024, but closed the door on forming a third party,” Republican strategist Alice Stewart said. “In other words, he fed his base just the red meat they are hungry for,” reported The Review-Journal.

The event gave Trump his first opportunity to vent against his colleagues among Republicans who had supported his second impeachment after Twitter deleted his account after the 6 January riot. Trump named the 10 members who had voted to impeach him in January and the seven GOP Senators who voted to convict him in February.

Trump dismissed those who voted or spoke against him as “establishment Republicans” and “political hacks” who could “actually be successful”, he said, if they spent as much time attacking Democrats as they attacked him.

“Another reason the former President lost: MATH,” tweeted Representative Ted Lieu, the Democrat from California. He said that the Republicans had lost the House, Senate and White House last year.

Trump singled out Representative Elizabeth Lynne Cheney, the Republican from Wyoming, for some rough talk. She, the former president predicted, might lose re-election. Trump did not spare Utah Senator Mitt Romney, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the US Supreme Court either for not paying heed to his calls for scrutiny of the vote-counting process.

Off and on, the CPAC crowd chanted back, “USA, USA, USA,” “We love you,” and, “You won.”

In a departure from the convention of former presidents to avoid the spotlight to let the successor take the reins from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Trump ridiculed President Biden’s psychological capability and said emphatically that his immigration policies, his decision to curb fracking and his decision to kill the Keystone pipeline were the right moves.

Trump wondered how much in the national interest Biden’s handling of the US-Mexico border and the new president’s support for coronavirus school closures would be.

The Biden administration, Trump said, “is actually bragging about the classroom education they’re providing to migrant children on the border, while at the same time millions of American children are having their futures destroyed by Joe Biden’s anti-science school closure. Think of it, we’re educating students on the border that our own people, children of citizens, citizens themselves are not getting the education that they deserve.”

Trump turned nostalgic when he recalled his 2015 escalator ride in Trump Tower, where he had announced he was going to run for president.

Trump accused Mexico of sending “criminals” to the United States. He harped on the statement he had made in 2015 on CPAC, “They’re not giving us their best and their finest.”

Former adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris Dan Newman said, “Trump is Trump. In one sense, it’s extraordinary how little has changed. He’s the same racist who came down the elevator at Trump Tower and the same sore loser who incited the terrorists to storm the capitol.”

Trump took credit for the coronavirus vaccines that some experts had said could not be developed in a year — in time, he noted, for Biden to receive his first dose before the inauguration.

On the issue of election integrity, Trump looked into the future and the past as well. He alleged that Democrats had used the coronavirus “as an excuse to change all the election rules without the approval of their state legislatures, making it all illegal” and shifting the outcome in Biden’s favour.

In Nevada, contrary to Trump’s rhetoric, Democratic state legislators in August passed Bill 4, signed into law by Governor Steve Sisolak, which provided for a mostly mail-in election. Biden won Nevada by 2.4 points, the exact margin by which Hillary Clinton had won the state in 2016.

While the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overrode voting rules set by the legislature, the US Supreme Court refused to get involved in the case — to the then incumnbent’s clear dissatisfaction. “The Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it,” Trump fumed.

Trump said, “In Pennsylvania, they had hundreds of thousands of more votes than they had people voting.”

Politifact and the Philadelphia Inquirer rated that assertion false as it was based on a GOP legislator’s tweet that wrongly conflated general and primary election vote tallies.

Trump suggested a series of election reforms that included limiting voting to one day, allowing voting for mail only for cause, voter identification protocols, universal signature matching and citizenship verification.

Straw poll results

A key feature of CPAC meetings is a straw poll of attendees to gauge their support for key Republicans. Nearly seven out of ten of those polled said they wanted to see Trump run in 2024.

Trump did not do as well in head-to-head polls. This year, CPAC gave participants two options — a field with Trump and a field without Trump. In the first grouping, Trump led the field with 55 percent of the vote. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis came in second with 21 percent of the vote.

In a field without Trump, 43 percent chose DeSantis, who used CPAC’s venue — Orlando because CPAC could not hold its annual meeting in National Harbor, Maryland, where such gatherings are banned — as a means to tout the Sunshine State’s coronavirus polices.

Addressing the crowd Friday, DeSantis boasted that Florida is “an oasis of freedom in a nation that’s suffering from the yoke of oppressive lockdowns,” when he addressed the socially distanced but not necessarily masked crowd.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a strong Trump supporter, came in second with 11 percent of the vote in a Trump-less field. Donald Trump Jr. came in third place at 8 percent.

The annual conference has been a must-do venue for Republican presidential hopefuls since it first convened in 1973.

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