Former President Trump was the headline speaker for the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, delivering a defiant speech to end the weekend. Taking the stage in front of an enthusiastic crowd filled with “Make America Great Again” hats and waving American flags, Trump gave a speech that clearly showed the extent of his influence over the future of the GOP. His polemic took aim at the mainstream media, the Democratic Party, and moderate Republicans, offering a campaign-rally type of experience for the enthusiastically pro-Trump audience.
The former president took his time making his way down the stage, walking out to “God Bless the U.S.A,” by Lee Greenwood, a song that became a signature at many of his rallies. He strolled slowly, soaked up the applause, and even had to briefly wait for a “U.S.A” chant to die down. Finally, Trump began his speech by calling his political movement “the greatest political movement in our nation’s history.” He continued, saying, “I will never stop fighting for you,” because “they’re taking our heritage away.”
The border was the first issue he addressed. The Biden administration has brought the country “to the brink of ruin” through its catch-and-release programs, he said. Citing a 1,000 percent increase in illegal crossings, he called the border crisis the worst it has been in American history. Youth arrivals are up 500 percent, while ICE is “functionally shut down.” He aptly contrasted these troubling numbers with his own border policies, which decreased immigration significantly.
Trump’s speech often focused on the past. Reflecting on his time in office, he attacked the media for “disinformation” regarding the allegations that he was connected with, or beholden to, Putin. He reminded the audience that he defended the Second Amendment 100 percent, electing not to mention his bump-stock ban.
He focused on the 2020 presidential election as well. Big Tech’s censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop scandal, he said, was part of an effort to unfairly protect Biden and undermine his reelection chances. He also attacked the media for its “fake polls,” pointing out that, shortly before Election Day, outlets published reports that he was down 17 points in Wisconsin, for instance, when he actually lost by only a few percentage points there. These polling inaccuracies, casting him as the near-certain loser, are an intentional form of voter suppression, he said, because they discourage supporters from showing up on Election Day.
Trump refused to say he lost the election, maintaining that voter irregularities and voter fraud were the cause of his defeat. He specifically brought up a claim (a claim rated mostly false by Newsweek) that the water-main break reported on Election Night in Georgia was a coverup to allow a few corrupt poll workers to stuff ballots against him. In addition, Trump attacked the governor of Georgia, saying he “let us down” by failing to purge voter rolls or take voter fraud more seriously. Commenting on recent news from the Biden administration, Trump said that Attorney General Merrick Garland is targeting Georgia with an election-law lawsuit because Republican leaders in Georgia are weak and will acquiesce to liberal demands.
Nevertheless, the former president exhorted the audience to remember that “the radical Left is not the majority, we are the majority.” He cited the rise in crime and homicide rates in many major cities, especially New York City, where crime is “out of control.” Trump is convinced that his agenda is popular and that Democrat policies will turn voters back to the GOP.
In typical Trump fashion, he dug into his bag of monikers and humorous insults, calling the CEO of Facebook “Mark Zuckerbucks” and Adam Schiff “Shifty Schiff,” to wild applause. Disregarding Reagan’s eleventh commandment — Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican — Trump also lambasted fellow GOP members Bill Cassidy, Liz Cheney, and Mitt Romney for giving ammunition to the Left against him. Also in Trump fashion, he covered a wide range of topics in one speech. He talked about his impeachment trials and the Steele dossier, he defended his embattled personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and took aim at the Supreme Court. He even talked at length about meeting with Navy personnel and about unnecessary expenditures he observed while inspecting an aircraft carrier as president.
Looking forward to future election cycles, Trump said that the MAGA movement is stronger than ever, despite the results of the 2020 election, an election he still believes he won. The movement is “not backing down,” he said. Trump implied he was seriously considering running again for president, noting that he is polling better than Kamala Harris and better than other Republicans in the field. Directly after, the crowd began a vigorous chant of “Four more years! Four more years!”
The speech ended with Trump’s asserting that the Republicans will take back the House, the Senate, and the White House. His final words echoed his campaign speeches from 2016 and 2020: “We will make America great again.” The speech definitely had the feel of a campaign rally. Rallying support is something Trump is quite good at, and the audience responded with a massive standing ovation. His remarks were met with enthusiastic applause throughout, showcasing how much support the former president commands among the GOP base. While Trump has not entered the 2024 race, all the signals at CPAC indicate that it’s very much Trump’s nomination to lose.
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