Orlando, Florida – Former President Donald Trump is set to deliver the keynote address at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Sunday afternoon as he and his allies aim to guide the direction of the Republican Party after his presidency.
Trump has made a handful of public statements since leaving office, including a call to Fox News to discuss the death of radio legend Rush Limbaugh and the car accident of his friend Tiger Woods. But the speech, scheduled for 3:40 p.m., will be his first extended engagement to speak publicly in person.
Trump is expected to attack President Biden over immigration, Keystone XL and Big Tech, said a source close to the former president. He is also expected to walk “to the line of announcing another campaign,” without really committing himself.
The former president will pledge to remain in the Republican Party rather than start a new party in a speech expected to last up to 90 minutes or more, which will also mark a “path” to win back Congress in 2022.
“We are not starting new parties, and we will not be dividing our power and our strength. Instead, we will be united and strong like never before,” Trump will say, in an excerpt from the speech obtained by Fox News.
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He is expected to bring up his disappointment with Representative Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, who has come under fire from several CPAC attendees for her vote to impeach Trump in January.
Trump will be in an extremely friendly crowd. MAGA hats are omnipresent at the conference; there are even some people wearing “Students for Trump” kippah. People can pick up Trump merchandise at various kiosks. And there’s even a huge gold statue of Trump wearing American flag shorts and holding a star-shaped wand in the center of CPAC.
Trump’s allies flooded the annual Republican conspiracy and made it clear that they expect the Republican Party to remain Trump’s party even though some Republicans have tried to distance themselves from the former president.
“I think without a doubt” the Republican Party is still Trump’s party, Donald Trump Jr. told Fox News shortly after his speech. “I think you hear it from the voices. I think you see it in the speeches of others who are in the government. I see it in the backlash that you see from some of those who opposed that in recent weeks. I think it’s pretty clear And it should be. Putting America first shouldn’t be controversial. “
During his speech Friday, Trump Jr. referred to CPAC as TPAC, probably meaning “Trump Political Action Conference.”
“I imagine it won’t be what we call a low energy speech,” Trump Jr. said of his father’s speech.
Sunday’s CPAC agenda notably lacks the kind of GOP heavyweights that were throughout the program on Friday and Saturday. Trump would be considered the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination if he ran. But many other potential contenders were in CPAC.
Among them were Senators Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Rick Scott, R-Florida, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
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Among those on the ground at CPAC, many seemed to prefer DeSantis for the Republican nomination despite his fondness for the former president.
“I think President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party. He remains the leader even if he is not the president, at least of our party,” said Val Biancaniello, who was Trump’s Pennsylvania delegate at the 2020 Republican National Convention.
But, Biancello said, “I really like Ron DeSantis in ’24. If the CPAC theme is ‘America without canceling’, I think Ron DeSantis is really the face of that right now … He’s a proactive governor instead. of a reactive governor. “
Meanwhile, the non-Trump presidential contenders themselves made sure to show deference to the former president.
“I think that’s yours,” Hawley said of Trump’s role in the future of the Republican Party in an interview with Fox News on Friday.
Cotton also praised the former president during a conversation with Fox News.
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“One thing that President Trump has done over the past five years is reset the vision of many Republican politicians and help them understand the views of Republican voters,” he said. “He helped reset the Republican agenda. Now we are putting Americans first. We are standing up to China. We are defending our business interests to make sure we are not just giving away our prosperity.”
Scott added: “President Trump did something that has never been done in our lives. He stood up to the entire Washington establishment and said ‘no.’
The Republican Party “will not win the future by trying to get back to where the Republican Party used to be,” he said.
The president of the American Conservative Union, Matt Schlapp, emphasized in an interview with Fox News earlier last week that he believes Republicans will not be successful within the party if they are perceived to be disloyal to the former president.
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“By never being a Trumper, you will not get the Republican nomination,” Schlapp said.
The actual temperature for the conference will be taken when the CPAC survey results are released on Sunday. Schlapp said on Fox News Saturday that there will be two separate polls within the straw polls, one with Trump in the field and one without him.
Either way, the 2024 presidential campaign will begin, if not officially, unofficially, when Trump takes the stage Sunday at an event that will be quite similar to one of his noisy campaign rallies.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw, Paul Steinhauser, Mark Meredith, and John Roberts contributed to this report.