In his first speech since leaving office, former U.S. President Donald Trump underscored his claim to leadership among Republicans and flirted with a presidential run in 2024. Democrats had in fact "lost the White House" in the Nov. 3 election, Trump told cheering supporters Sunday at the CPAC conservative convention in Orlando. "Who knows, maybe I'll decide to beat them a third time."
Trump, in his hour-and-a-half speech to conservative activists and politicians, repeated the false claim that he won the election against Democrat Joe Biden. It was "impossible" that he had lost, the 74-year-old said, repeating his widely refuted allegations of election fraud. Biden had won the election by a margin of about seven million votes and a clear majority of the electorate.
Five and a half weeks after leaving the White House, Trump also made it clear that he intends to continue setting the tone at his Republican Party. "I'm not going to start a new party," the former president said. "We have the Republican Party. It will unite and be stronger than ever before." Media reports that he had considered forming his own party in recent weeks were "fake news," he said.
At the same time, Trump attacked by name a number of internal party critics - particularly those parliamentarians who voted against him in the impeachment trial over the Jan. 6 Capitol storming. "Get rid of them all!" he shouted.
Trump also used his appearance in his new home state of Florida to launch numerous attacks against his successor, Biden. The latter had put in the "most disastrous first month of any president in modern history" of the United States, Trump said. The new administration, he said, is "anti-jobs, anti-family, anti-frontiers, anti-energy, anti-women, anti-science."
Biden, he said, is opening the border with neighboring Mexico and letting countless migrants into the country. The Democrat is also leading the United States into "socialism" and ultimately "communism" with "radical" left-wing policies, he said. Republicans were "in a fight for the survival of America as we know it," Trump said. In the end, however, Republicans would "always win."
Trump's audience gave the ex-president rapturous applause, chanting "USA, USA" and "We love you." Trump, in another hint at a possible presidential run again, assured a Republican candidate would reclaim the White House in 2024. "I wonder who that will be," the former head of state said. "Who, who, who?" The Republican had openly flirted with a new presidential run in the past. After his acquittal in the impeachment trial following the Capitol storming, that path is open to him in principle.
In an informal poll of CPAC attendees, 95 percent favored continuing Trump's policies. Seventy percent wanted Trump to run again in 2024. Loyal Trump supporters had gathered at the conference in recent days, while inner-party critics of the ex-president stayed away from CPAC.
The right-wing populist is not without controversy in his party. The traditional conservative camp holds him responsible for the fact that the Republicans lost their majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate during his term in office - and the White House. Among large parts of the party and the base, however, Trump still enjoys strong support. In his speech, Trump said that in Republican primaries, his support is "the most powerful Trump."
The ex-president, had barely spoken publicly since leaving the White House on Jan. 20. He only released a few statements and gave phone interviews. The 74-year-old now lives at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay