Dear Commons Community,
Former President Donald Trump regaled his faithful on Saturday evening in suburban Washington with promises of “retribution” against their mutual enemies, but the reception was relatively subdued compared with his past raucous speeches at the event. As reported by Yahoo and other media.
“In 2016, I declared I am your voice,” Trump said to the ballroom packed with his most fervent loyalists at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), to some of the loudest sustained applause of the night. “Today I add: I am your warrior, I am your justice — and for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution. I will totally obliterate the deep state.”
But roughly 20% of the seats were empty, and Trump struggled at times to get a rise with his applause lines, including an extended riff about homeless military veterans being treated worse than undocumented immigrants.
CPAC, which bills itself as the biggest and most influential gathering of conservatives in the world, has been taking place for nearly half a century. After a pandemic-enforced move to Florida and Texas, it returned to the Washington area this week. But proximity to the capital was no guarantee of relevance. The list of Republicans who decided to stay away was as striking as those who showed up.
The absentees included potential 2024 contenders such as the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis; the Virginia governor, Glenn Youngkin; former vice-president Mike Pence; and Senator Tim Scott. Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel were also missing.
Longtime staples of the right, like conservative media giant Fox News, also skipped the conference this year. And the crowd had fewer college Republicans than it has in recent years.
Sany Dash, one of the vendors selling Trump and MAGA merchandise at the conference, said the crowd was not what it used to be just a few years ago. The exhibition hall had more space and fewer vendors and activists.
“It’s Trumpism — he opened all this up,” Dash said. “It’s Trump’s party.”
DeSantis, who remains Trump’s chief competitor for the nomination in early polling, wooed Republican megadonors Thursday night in Florida at a competing conference organized by the Club for Growth. The governor rallied Republicans in Texas Friday evening and delivered a speech at the Reagan Library in Southern California yesterday.
Other White House aspirants, however, attended CPAC, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is said to be considering a campaign, and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who recently announced her candidacy.
The Republicans are going to have to figure out where they are heading in 2024 with Trump!