Kurt Schlichter, If CPAC 2023 proved anything, it was that Donald Trump still has his dedicated fans – from Brick Suit Guy (a smart, nice dude who fully absolutely gets the wackiness of his act) to a family wearing shirts bearing one letter each of the ex-prezzy’s name to the scores regular folks who adore him, the president remains beloved. They lined up and waited for hours to see him speak again, and he delivered again – his never-ending speech (heavy on policy but DeSantis-free) was generally well-received.
Even the DeSantis-curious qualified their moving-on with respect for the accomplishments of Trump’s first three years and agreed that the Florida governor should have shown up and thrown down. Combine all that with a triumphant spin through East Palestine (the best day of Donald Trump’s ex-presidency) and at least some surging poll numbers, and it’s been a pretty good couple weeks for the Bad Orange Man.
But success at the conservative summit is not necessarily the same as success out in the general election, or even out in the Republican primary. CPAC was a little smaller this year volume-wise, probably due to being back in DC and the Biden economy, but the dedicated base folks were there. There weren’t quite as many students in their elephant skirts or awkward blazers, or quite as many dudes in tri-corner hats – though of course, there were still dudes in tri-corner hats – but it was a good gathering, and people were happy and motivated. There was very little dooming and a lot of excitement over the primary. The enemy regime media, which came in for plenty of contempt, will try and have you think that it was sparsely attended (there were still a ton of people) so the conservative movement is therefore broken and demoralized. That contempt was expressed during the panel I shared with Townhall’s own Larry O’Connor, Brent Bozell, and the great @LibsofTikTok. My personal CPAC highlight (besides, my informal conclave with super-lawyer Ron Coleman) was being accused by leftist media of joking from the stage about hunting reporters for sport. Yeah, “joking.”
There were fewer leftist reporters there, because CPAC is based and just wouldn’t give them credentials. If you watched the outside coverage, you would think that there was no one there and that’s nonsense. In this economy, it’s a miracle to get this many folks together. The goal of the garbage media was to present a broken and hopeless conservative movement, and it’s fine if that’s what they think. Never interrupt the enemy when it is making a mistake.
The people are still annoyed about coming up short in 2022, but they’re focused on 2024. At CPAC, the majority focused on Donald Trump, as you would expect. They would’ve liked to see Ron DeSantis, who wants to go to different events in different places. However, what happened to Nikki Haley probably makes him confident that he made the right decision. Haley, who could not be squishier, gave one of her “I love America, and I don’t care who gets mad about that” speeches, then came outside and was surrounded by a bunch of people screaming “Trump, Trump, Trump,” and, allegedly, some not so pleasant things. This kind of jerky behavior is obnoxious, particularly because it forces me to defend Nikki Haley. Stop making me defend Nikki Haley. If you’re going to do something that’s going to make me defend Nikki Haley, don’t do that thing. This is a moral guideline that you should apply throughout your daily life.
Mike Pompeo showed up and gave a speech that talked about things beside foreign policy, which was good. It was well received. Vivek Ramaswamy showed up and people reacted by wondering why the hell he’s running for president instead of senator or somewhere. Ted Cruz showed up and was not running for president, which is a terrific decision – he should make sure he keeps his Texas seat.
But it was really all about Trump, and the vibe was that the president was ascendant. He won the CPAC poll by a mile. There are a lot of polls out there, national ones in particular, where he looks like he’s doing pretty well. There are a lot of state polls where he’s not winning, and that’s a problem since you don’t run in a national primary but in state primaries. His numbers in California, for instance, are terrible. While California is blue blue blue, it will still send a bunch of delegates to the Republican national convention, and right now Trump’s behind in the Golden State.
This race is not done, not by a long shot, and it is not guaranteed that we will see Nominee Trump 3.0. But it is equally clear that we could. His support is strong, and even the people who back someone else – meaning Ron DeSantis, since everybody else right now is just a footnote – respect much of what Trump did while pointing out some of the bonehead maneuvers he made. And for the most part, they are tired of his stupid social media antics, but after eight years if you think you can have Trump without stupid social media antics, I have a California high-speed rail system that I’d like to sell you.
Trump can still win the nomination. There’s no doubt about that. Whether he will win the nomination is an open question, and people are looking forward to the primary. They aren’t afraid of a little head-butting and a bit of battle – that’s why we have primaries. Even most of the Trump ones, though not the trumpiest of the Trumpians, dig DeSantis – every once in a while, you encounter some doofus babbling about how DeSantis is a “globalist” and then he gets really puzzled when you ask him what he thinks a “globalist” actually is.
DeSantis should show up next year when the primary is in full swing and that should be the ultimate Octagon cage match. By then, the asterisk candidates should be cleared out – for example, Nikki Haley will have suffered her humiliations in Iowa and New Hampshire and ended her extended vice presidency audition. I am looking forward to CPAC 2024 – two men go in, one comes out.
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