Former President Donald Trump will speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, next Sunday, where he will brand himself as the head of the Republican Party, sources have said.
In the first public speech he will give since leaving the White House in January, Trump is expected to discuss “the future of the Republican party and the conservative movement,” according to reporting from Reuters journalist Steve Holland.
Other sources have indicated that Trump plans to promote himself as a “kingmaker” for 2022 midterms, setting himself up for a potential run for president in 2024.
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Sources close to Trump told Axios that the former president will promote the idea that he’s the “presumptive 2024 nominee” for the party. Others in Trump’s close proximity said that he will claim virtual ownership of the party altogether.
“Trump effectively is the Republican Party,” his senior adviser Jason Miller told Axios. “The only chasm is between Beltway insiders and grassroots Republicans around the country. When you attack President Trump, you’re attacking the Republican grassroots.”
There may be some truth to that statement from Miller. A recent Suffolk University/USA Today poll published over the weekend asked Trump voters in the 2020 race whether they’d remain loyal to the GOP or join a third party movement led by Trump. Only 27 percent said they’d back the Republican Party over Trump, while nearly half (46 percent) said they’d back a new political party created by the former president.
Still, while most Republican voters appear willing to follow Trump to the edges of the earth, U.S. voters overall don’t share those sentiments. A recent CNBC/All-America Economic Survey published earlier this month found that 54 percent of all voters wanted Trump to “remove himself from politics entirely” moving forward.
Notably, while Trump is planning on attending CPAC this year, his former vice president, Mike Pence, is opting out of the event. Pence had been criticized and ridiculed by Trump on January 6, the day the Capitol was attacked by a mob of pro-Trump loyalists, for failing to put a halt to the certification of the Electoral College vote in Congress on that same day.
Trump had misleadingly told his supporters that Pence had such constitutional powers, but in reality the vice president does not have much more than a ceremonial role in the counting of the Electoral College. As they broke into the Capitol that day, many within the mob of Trump loyalists had called for Pence to be hanged because he wouldn’t stop the count.
Noting Pence’s planned absence at CPAC, NBC News political analyst Howard Fineman tweeted that he wasn’t surprised.
“I’ve covered them for decades; they’ve become angrier by the year. #Trump radicalized it even more,” Fineman wrote, adding that modern CPAC gatherings had become “militant populist-nihilist” affairs in recent years.