Donald Trump easily won the Conservative Political Action Conference’s closely watched straw poll on Saturday, notching a symbolic win among the Republican grassroots as he seeks to reclaim the White House in 2024, The Hill reports.
Trump won with 62 percent, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) got 20 percent.
Politico: “Despite his difficulties since he left office, about a third of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters still consider themselves supporters more of Trump than the Republican Party, according to a recent NBC News poll. Many of them aren’t going anywhere.”
“Fully 28 percent of Republican primary voters are so devoted to the former president that they said they’d support him even if he ran as an independent… Indeed, the ‘Always Trump’ component of the party is so pronounced that it’s affecting how Trump’s opponents operate around him.”
Donald Trump delivered a preview of what to expect in next year’s presidential election in his address to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday, framing the contest as an existential battle for the future of the country, The Hill reports.
Said Trump: “We have no choice. If we don’t do this, our country will be lost forever.”
He added: “This is the final battle. They know it, I know it, You know it, everybody knows it. This is it. Either they win, or we win and if they win, we no longer have a country.”
Politico: “The plan went off without any real hitch: No Republican departed CPAC with more glory than former President Donald Trump. In fact, no one bothered to try.”
Semafor: “During the speech, Trump focused in part on Social Security, which he’s been vocal about vowing to protect in recent weeks. In particular, he appeared to target Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, one of his potential opponents, over the topic.”
Said Trump: “Somebody’s running around … and they’re not going to announce what they’re doing. I assume they’re running, right? And I said there’s no way we will allow them back to attack Social Security. There’s no way we will allow them — because a certain person wanted to attack Social Security and Medicare. They wanted to raise the minimum age to 70 … we’re going to take care of our Social Security people.”
He added: “And you know, the one thing I’ve learned about politics: If there’s an early inclination — if somebody wants to cut Social Security, eventually, if they’re in a position of power, they’ll bring it back.”
NBC News: “Trump, in his nearly two-hour speech, also called for Republicans to once and for all renounce the George W. Bush-era conservatism that preceded his rise in politics — a rebuke of a GOP establishment that has signaled interest in moving on from Trump.”
“Donald Trump said on Saturday that he would not drop out of the 2024 presidential race if he was indicted in one of several investigations he is facing,” the New York Times reports.
Said Trump: “Oh absolutely. I wouldn’t even think about leaving.”
“Republicans arrived at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference in a confident mood, talking past last year’s middling midterm results and predicting victory in 2024,” Semafor reports.
“President Joe Biden, who’d surprised them by winning in 2020 and holding onto Democratic seats in 2022, was an afterthought.”
“Two leading Republicans took veiled jabs at former President Donald Trump at an annual gathering of conservatives Friday, knocking ‘celebrity leaders’ not in tune with reality while noting winnable elections that had been lost as they urged a party course correction ahead of the 2024 presidential contest,” the AP reports.
“But their refusal to call him out by name underscored the risks faced by potential and declared challengers worried about alienating Trump’s loyal base.”
“Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley stepped into the hallway after speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday to supporters asking for selfies and autographs — and, from others, a less friendly greeting,” the Washington Post reports. Chanted a crowd around her: “We love Trump, we love Trump!”
“Some Haley supporters shouted her name back as the former U.N. ambassador escaped with staff to an elevator.”
Bloomberg: “Trump, allies say, seems set on ‘Ron DeSanctimonious,’ even though others around him don’t think it’s a bullseye. Some of the new ideas the former president’s entertained: ‘Ron DisHonest.’ ‘Ron DeEstablishment.’ Or even, ‘Tiny D.’”
“His team has spent weeks trying to dig up dirt on DeSantis’s record as governor; his wife, Casey, a former television journalist; his year teaching at a boarding school in Georgia and his record as a member of Congress, including support for raising the US retirement age and partly privatizing Medicare as part of then-Speaker Paul Ryan’s conservative budget plan…”
“Taking down DeSantis before he attains too much momentum and donor cash is a priority for Trump’s allies, who aim to sully the governor enough to dent his poll numbers and support within Republican circles. Two of Trump’s top campaign aides previously worked for DeSantis. One Trump adviser said that in his CPAC speech, the former president will seek to draw a strong contrast with his top rival.”
New York Times: “After a fitful start, the Trump operation is now actively preparing for the possibility of a drawn-out 2024 primary. That means laying the groundwork to compete in a potential fight over delegates that could extend deep into next year. And it means shadowboxing with his ascendant but not-yet-official challenger, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, over donors and endorsements from inside their shared home state and beyond.”
“This is grunt work Mr. Trump was slow to undertake in his celebrity-powered, but scattershot, campaign in 2016. In 2020, he used his incumbency to scare off any serious challenges.”
“On the third time around, the Trump campaign’s focus on the traditional nuts and bolts is an acknowledgment of the race’s expected competitiveness.”
Playbook: “Today, in a speech at a private Club for Growth donor retreat in Florida, presidential hopeful Nikki Haley will take a major swing at her party over government spending, raising the temperature of the 2024 race by turning her fire at Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers (though without naming any of them explicitly).”
“Haley will say it’s not just Democrats who are to blame for the exploding national debt, but Republicans.”
Said Haley: “Don’t let the media tell you Republicans and Democrats can’t work together. They always seem to work just fine when they’re spending your money.”
Donald Trump “is convinced his attacks on Ron DeSantis are chipping away at the Florida governor’s support and confidence,” Axios reports. “So Trump is planning to amp up the attacks and name-calling in the coming weeks.”
Trump believes there are five areas of weakness for the Florida governor, including his past support for changes to Social Security and Medicare, his initially cautious response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and his “disloyalty” to Trump himself.
He also plans to call him a “Reagan Republican.”
“You’re going to get smoked by Trump.”— Gov. Gavin Newsom, quoted by Politico, in a statement issued ahead of a planned speech by Gov. Ron DeSantis at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
“It’s going to cost a lot to get Ron DeSantis to show up in person to collect political checks: about $1 million,” NBC News reports.
“That’s the aggressive goal set to draw the Florida governor and likely 2024 presidential candidate to travel out of his way for fundraising events, according to three Republicans involved in efforts to raise cash for DeSantis during the shadow primary period.”
“Former President Donald Trump is intensifying his courtship of influential GOP figures in key primary states – this time, over steaks and ice cream at his Mar-a-Lago club,” Politico reports.
“Trump spent Thursday night wooing over a dozen leaders of the Nevada Republican Party, his first outreach to a state that is expected to be among the first to hold its nominating contest. According to two people present, the former president spent nearly three hours peppering the party officials with questions about the Nevada political landscape, previewing his weekend speech at the CPAC conference and telling his guests that he plans to visit the state in the next few months.”
“The Murdochs have decided that Trump is not going to be President of the United States. Well, we’ve decided that Fox is not going to be a major network anymore.”— Steve Bannon, in a speech at CPAC.
Some Republican senators are sounding very positive about the prospect of their colleague, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), possibly mounting a White House bid, Punchbowl News reports.
Said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA): “Tim can win. He can win the presidency.”