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Mostly Ignored By Top GOP at CPAC, Trump Tries to Reassert His Dominance Over Republicans

Mostly Ignored By Top GOP at CPAC, Trump Tries to Reassert His Dominance Over Republicans

Leading Republicans spent much of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) either avoiding Donald Trump’s chief grievances or ignoring him altogether as they attempted to distance themselves from his shadow. But their show of unity behind a midterm message designed to win back the voters the polarizing Trump alienated while in office was already fracturing before the end of the weekend as Trump reminded those who want to “move on” that he remains the most powerful voice in Republican politics.

Up until Trump’s appearance Saturday night, there were almost no speakers backing his lies about election fraud, as was the focus of last year’s conference; it’s as if it had been an afterthought among those appearing. No one parroted Trump’s approving rhetoric toward Putin. And some leading Republicans didn’t even mention Trump’s name.

[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]
Despite Trump’s dominant place at the head of the Republican Party, other party leaders are increasingly optimistic they have found a forward-looking strategy to overcome pro-Trump extremism and expand the party’s appeal with control of Congress at stake in November. But in a clear display that the party is becoming more divided, Trump’s remaining loyalists delivered a message to thousands of mostly white activists at an event that usually celebrates far-right rhetoric that the party has absolutely not turned its back on Trumpism.

In his keynote, Trump pulled the focus back to himself, boasting that he planned to run for president a third time, in 2024. He falsely blamed his 2020 election loss on widespread voter fraud, for which there is no evidence. And on Sunday, he was the overwhelming winner of a presidential preference straw poll of conference attendees. “We did it twice, and we’ll do it again,” Trump said of running in 2024. Even so, he has teased about a 2024 campaign before and his vow this time was not necessarily ironclad.

While Trump expressed support for the Ukrainian people and called the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a “brave man,” he also flattered Russian President Vladimir Putin by praising his decision to invade Ukraine as “smart.” Trump bragged about his ties with other leading autocrats as well, specifically pointing to his friendly relationships with Xi Jinping of China and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, considered a potential running mate for Trump in 2024, talked about the 2016 presidential election and the unsubstantiated allegations that Democrats in power “spied” on the Trump campaign. But she pivoted quickly to the future. “We have some fantastic fighters. But he’s not alone. The American people are on our side,” Noem said.

 

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