DALLAS (NewsNation Now) — The once annual Conservative Political Action Conference held their second meeting of the year this past weekend in Dallas and the star of the show was predictably former President Donald Trump.
“We have a much different party than we had five years ago,” Trump said. “You were in big trouble Republicans and look what’s happening.”
The party and the conservative movement are different and the hold that Trump still has over the crowd that attended is powerful.
“Trump is overshadowing everything,” said Joe Williams, a senior editor at U.S. News and World Report. “He’s like the 800 pound gorilla who won’t go away.”
Williams says that they may not want him to go away
“You’ve had a number of challengers who were anointed by President Donald Trump in special elections and they won, so Trump’s brand is still very, very strong,” Williams said.
It is so strong that a painting of Trump depicting him kissing the American flag at the last CPAC in February was auctioned off for $25,000.
Trump also won the straw poll, a staple of CPAC meetings, getting 70 percent to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 21 percent, highlighting the challenge for Desantis if he wants to take the reins of the party in 2024.
“There is really no choice for DeSantis other than try to do as best of a Trump imitation as you can, without being seen by moderates as another iteration of Trump,” Williams said. “It’s a very, very delicate dance.”
The challenges for any potential Republican candidate go further than just Trump. A leaflet handed out included a “seven point plan to restore Donald Trump in days not years.” The convention also gave a platform to far-right voices like Colorado representative Lauren Boebert.
“We’re here to tell government we don’t want your benefits, we don’t want your welfare, don’t come knocking on my door with your Fauci-ouchy you leave us the hell alone,” Boebert said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci was invoked repeatedly over the weekend, a pronouncement that the Biden administration fell slightly short of their vaccination goals drew cheers.
“It’s horrifying,” Fauci said. “They are cheering about someone saying that it’s a good thing for people not to try and save their lives.”
The theme of this conference was a stolen election, a subject that isn’t going away for those gathered or their standard bearer.
“We will never give up our search for truth and justice for what happened in the corrupt presidential election of 2020,” Trump said.
NewsNation spoke with Tina Nguyen, a national reporter for Politico, about CPAC. See the interview in the player below.
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