Orlando, Florida, United States – The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the largest annual gathering of Republicans in the United States, has served over the years as a gauge for the direction of the party and its supporters.
This year’s event, just weeks after Donald Trump acquitted in a US Senate impeachment trial for his role in a Deadly Capitol Riot, takes place as the party has had a blast over the role of former Republican president going forward.
Some Republicans have publicly blame Trump for the Capitol uprising, even voting for his impeachment, and others have it floated the idea of creating their own political party to escape its influence.
But speakers and CPAC attendees made their position clear this weekend.
“Let me tell you this right now, Donald J. Trump is going nowhere,” Former-Trump opponent Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz said in a speech at the conference on Friday.
“How are you doing, CPAC?” Or I heard someone earlier say it a little better: TPAC, ”Donald Trump Jr. said, making a“ T ”for Trump with his hands.
Despite repeated false claims, the election was stolen from him, Trump lost the vote to Democrat Joseph Biden, who took office last month – and has been berated by some members of his own party for the riot from the Capitol on January 6.
He was impeached in the United States House of Representatives for mob incitement and seven Republicans joined Democrats in the Senate voted to impeach Trump this month, but the effort failed to reach the majority needed to condemn him.
But Republican officials who want to move forward without Trump face a tall order.
Several lawmakers who voted in favor of impeachment faced censorship from Republican parties in their respective states, while Trump himself also hit against Republican leaders who criticized him for inciting a riot.
This month, he urged the party to get rid of Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, whom he called an “austere, sullen, and smileless political hack,” after McConnell said Trump was “practically and morally responsible “for the riot.
But Trump won more than 74 million votes in November, surpassing any Republican presidential candidate in history, and his supporters remain passionately loyal to the former president.
A Morning Consult / Politico poll conducted in February of likely Republican voters showed 53% would support Trump in the next presidential nomination contest. The closest finalist in the poll was former Vice President Mike Pence, with just 12 percent.
A recent Suffolk University / USA TODAY poll of Trump supporters found 46% would support a pro-Trump independent party above the GOP.
“The GOP is Trump’s party,” said Jim Murray, a Republican voter who traveled to the conference from Georgia. “I firmly believe it.”
Critics ignore CPAC
Speakers at the conference remained uniformly pro-Trump, while those in the party who are critical, including Congresswoman Liz Cheney and Senator Mitt Romney – the 2012 Republican presidential candidate who was previously celebrated in CPAC – did not attend.
In a statement on the Congressional file last month, Romney called Trump’s conduct as president reprehensible.
“I consider that an attempt to bribe an election to stay in power is one of the most reprehensible acts that can be committed by a sitting president,” Romney said after voting to convict Trump in his second trial. dismissal.
Trump is expected to close the conference with a speech on Sunday – and his popularity at the event, which is being held in Florida this year due to the state’s loose COVID-19 rules, is clear.
In one showroom, vendors sold red pro-Trump trucker hats, flags and dazzled handbags with Trump’s name on the front, while another table displayed “MAGA hammocks” with Trump slogans like “Fake News”, “Deplorable” and “Make America Great”. Again ”sewn on them.
Nearby, attendees lined up to have their picture taken with a gold idol bearing the image of the former president.
Organizers asked people to wear masks and observe social distancing guidelines, but attendees regularly flouted the rules, including Florida Representative Matt Gaetz and Trump Jr, who were seen walking the streets. corridors without mask.
As a sign of the kinds of issues pro-Trump Republicans will continue to point out, speakers at CPAC challenged the existence of systemic racism, opposed “political correctness” and criticized the Black Lives Matter movement.
Some also adopted Trump’s combative style of political politics over the weekend.
“We’re not going to apologize to anyone,” Senator Rick Scott told the crowd. “We’re never, ever going to back down.”