Numerous applicants for candidate posts
Although Trump has recently lost support among major donors and in polls, party expert Matthew Continetti of the think tank American Enterprise Institute believes that it is premature to say goodbye to him. Trump’s nomination as a candidate for the presidential election is “the most likely option for the moment”.
Continetti expects a tightly packed field of candidates. So far, Trump, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy have made their bid official, with other campaigns in the pipeline.
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According to Continetti, 30 or 40 percent support for Trump in the primary elections in spring 2024 might be enough to secure him the nomination for the third time in a row.
CPAC shows that Trump continues to hold part of the party in the approaching campaign, but only part. One of his rivals is staying away from the meeting. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis canceled his attendance for the first time in years.
Ron DeSantis has better things to do
He is currently the only politician who comes close to the ex-president in internal party polls and has double-digit popularity ratings. DeSantis has “great advantages,” says Continetti, because he has an “incredible fundraising apparatus” and is well known nationally. DeSantis is expected to announce his candidacy in late spring.
With his rejection of the CPAC, DeSantis is avoiding a direct confrontation with Trump. He seems to prefer to focus on supporters outside of the Trump universe.
Because the donor meeting of the powerful “Club for Growth” in Florida, in which DeSantis takes part, is taking place parallel to the CPAC. The conservative organization, which specializes in economic issues and promotes low taxes, is holding a conference in Palm Beach – very close to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.
The influential group broke with Trump some time ago because they consider his conspiracy theories to be too radical. The two competing events are therefore symbolic of the division of the Republicans: Here Trump is deified, there he is undesirable.
Some prominent Republicans are trying to bridge the two worlds. Haley, Ramaswamy and Texas Senator Ted Cruz are on both guest lists.
“Woodstock for Conservatives”
The CPAC was once an event that brought together the various currents of US conservatives for a few days. Since its inception in 1974, CPAC has held a central place in Republican politics, and the spectacle has often been dubbed “the woodstock for conservatives.”
But from 2011, with the rise of the Tea Party movement, the conference became increasingly radical. That was when Trump made his first appearance and laid the foundation for his 2016 presidential campaign in the years that followed.
Little remains of traditional conservatism at CPAC today. Far-right media outlets Breitbart and Newsmax are flagships, while media giant Fox News has scaled back its coverage. While just a few years ago Facebook, Google and Twitter were handing out free merchandise, the big social media corporations are nowhere to be found at this year’s CPAC.
Even the most powerful Republican on Capitol Hill apologized: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will not appear. Almost all of his opponents within the party, who had let him fail a dramatic speaker election for days, are on the agenda. Adding to CPAC’s reputation are abuse allegations against Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts the meeting.
Trump himself seems the many cancellations just right. On Truth Social, he slammed “certain candidates who don’t want to come,” but that’s not a problem. “Nobody cares what they have to say anyway.” He can be sure of all the attention.
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