On his last day at the White House last month, Donald Trump told a small crowd of supporters at Joint Base Andrews, the military airport, that he had no intention of leaving the stage quietly.
“I will always fight for you, I will watch,” said the outgoing president before boarding Air Force One for the last time. “We will come back in one form or another. . . We will see you again soon. “
The 45th US President is set to make a resounding return to the fray on Sunday with a keynote address at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an annual gathering of Republican politicians and media figures that has become something of a festival. rock for the right. activists, especially students.
Ford O’Connell, a Trump supporter and former Republican candidate for Congress, said attendees were “dying” to hear from Trump, whom he described as “the leader of the Republican Party, even though he didn’t is not in office in the traditional sense ”.
“These people are unhappy with the way the 2020 election went, but their hair is on fire after a month and a half of the Biden administration,” O’Connell said.
“What they want to hear from Trump is: how are you going to move forward in 2022 and 2024,” he added, referring to the midterm elections in two years and the next presidential election.
Trump’s speech will end an unprecedented period of near silence for the former reality TV star, who has built her political career on regular cable TV appearances and constant tweets. After leaving Washington, he took off for Mar-a-Lago, his resort town in Palm Beach, Florida, and has stayed there ever since, playing golf and shunning the spotlight.
Devoid of his ability to connect with his millions of followers on Twitter and Facebook – which banned him for his role in the deadly Jan.6 siege on the U.S. Capitol – Trump made only two notable interventions: he called Fox News to praise it. Rush Limbaugh, right-wing radio host, and published a breathtaking statement attack Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate.
Advisers had encouraged Trump to keep a low profile during his impeachment trial, which ended this month with his acquittal.
Trump will be the final speaker at the four-day conference, which is being held in Orlando, Florida – a city that is only a two-and-a-half-hour drive from his home and has looser Covid-19 restrictions than the usual ones from CPAC. Washington, DC location. The former president is expected to speak in person, although event organizers have not confirmed details of his speech.
The list of other CPAC speakers reads like a who’s who of its fiercest supporters, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Republican Senators. Josh hawley and Ted cruz – all of which have been suggested as possible 2024 candidates who could carry Trump’s torch if he does not run for president again.
Trump has not ruled out another offer for the White House, despite growing legal issues, including criminal investigations in New York and Georgia.
His appearance at CPAC – an event that dates back to a Ronald Reagan speech in 1974 that has become increasingly populist and Trump-centric in recent years – has also drawn attention to the infighting of the Republican Party.
Mike Pence, the former vice president, who fell out of favor with Trump supporters after certifying Biden’s election victory, is not attending the event. Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, who told Politico in an interview earlier this month, was also unable to run for office because “he has fallen so far.”
The party’s divisions were exposed during an awkward meeting on Capitol Hill this week, when reporters asked Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy if Trump should speak to CPAC.
McCarthy replied, “Yes he should,” before Liz Cheney, one of his deputies, intervened: “I have been clear in my views on President Trump. . . after January 6, I don’t think he should play a role in the future of the party or the country.
After Cheney contradicted him, McCarthy abruptly ended the press conference by saying, “On that positive note, thank you very much.”
Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans who joined all House Democrats to vote to impeach Trump last month, and is one of a handful of critics on Capitol Hill who openly lambasted the then-former president that they knew they ran the risk of losing the support of party voters. .
While a few elected Republicans, like McConnell, have joined Cheney in berating the former president, CPAC will serve as a stark reminder of how popular it remains among party activists.
A Suffolk University poll this week found that 46% of people who voted for Trump last November said they would quit the GOP if the former president split up and formed his party. Half of those polled said the Republican Party should be “more loyal to Trump,” compared with one in five said the party should be less loyal.
Matt Schlapp, a Trump ally and chairman of the Conservative Union of America, the group that organizes CPAC, told Fox News this week that the Republican establishment should recognize that it must now address a much larger church ; one composed by old party loyalists and supporters Trump brought into the fold with his “Make America Great Again” movement.
“It’s the Republicans, it’s the Conservatives – who are that big, big minority in this country – and then it’s these new MAGA supporters,” Schlapp said. “It is now a coalition.”
But more moderate Republicans warn that by sticking with Trump, the party will never be able to win back the centrist conservative and independent voters who abandoned the party at the polls in November.
“It’s important to remember that there is a whole other wing of the party, and hardly any of it. . . The wing is represented at CPAC, ”said Whit Ayres, a veteran GOP pollster. “It’s a gathering of the most conservative and most active members of the Republican Party, but it represents only part of the party.”