The end of this year’s CPAC was the highlight that most of the attendees were clearly waiting for. The keynote speaker was former President Donald J. Trump, who had been laying low since Joe Biden’s inauguration. If anyone was expecting Trump to be apologetic or talk about “unity” with the Democrats for the next four years, they probably haven’t been paying much attention over the past four years and they are likely very disappointed. Trump was still going full-bore and the crowd was eating it up. There were several highlights from the speech, but one of the earliest came when the Bad Orange Man answered a question that has been widely bandied about in the media. No, he doesn’t plan to start his own third party. He doesn’t need to because he’s still in charge of the GOP. And he might just take back the White House from Joe Biden in four years if only to prove the point. (National Review)
“You know they kept saying, ‘he’s going to start a brand new party.’ We have the Republican Party: it’s going to unite and be stronger than ever before,” Trump said.
“I am not starting a new party. That was fake news,” the former president added. “Wouldn’t that be brilliant? Let’s divide our vote so that we can never win.”
However, Trump indicated he could run for president in 2024, and again implied that he had not lost the election to Biden.
“Actually as you know they just lost the White House,” Trump said, referring to Democrats. “I might even decide to beat them for a third time.”
This wasn’t an official announcement of another run, but it was definitely a suggestion that it’s not off the table. And if anyone imagined that a more “reflective” Donald Trump might back off on calling out fake news in the media or apologize for his past rhetoric, that’s clearly not happening either.
The speech wasn’t just self-inflating rhetoric. Trump has clearly been following the news of Biden’s early weeks in office after beating the Democrats’ second attempt to impeach him. He tagged Joe Biden for his early efforts to roll back the progress Trump made over the past four years, particularly on the issue of illegal immigration.
“We did such a good job,” Trump said of his immigration policies. “Nobody’s ever seen anything like we did, and now [Biden] wants it all to go to hell.”
Trump added, “Joe Biden has triggered a massive flood of illegal immigration into our country…We’re one country, we can’t afford the problems of the world, as much as we’d love to.”
“Joe Biden’s decision to cancel border security has singlehandedly launched a youth migrant crisis that is enriching child smugglers, vicious criminal cartels, and some of the most evil people on the planet,” Trump said. “The Biden administration has put the vile coyotes back in business.”
Illegal immigration and border security were two of Trump’s signature issues during the 2016 campaign and throughout his four years in office. Seeing Biden working to dismantle all of it has to be lighting a fire under him. If he does actually decide to run again, you can count on seeing him return to those issues that worked for him so well the first time around.
So was this some sort of unofficial announcement of the Trump 2024 campaign? I’m honestly on the fence. In the plus column for that idea is the fact that Donald Trump is still the Energizer Bunny. You might be tempted to say that he wouldn’t run again in 20204 because he would be 77 years old when he returned to office. Of course, to assume that, you would have to ignore how old Joe Biden will beat the end of his term. Honestly, most of us who cover politics for a living have given up on being shocked by anything Donald Trump does.
But at the same time, there’s another factor to consider. Trump has always led with a roundhouse swing, but that doesn’t mean that he’s revealing all of his cards. No honest person would deny that the former President loves a huge rally with cheering supporters more than almost anything else. He revels in it. And he hasn’t really had much in the way of such opportunities since leaving office, particularly with Democrats and liberal lawsuits and legal challenges nipping at his heels on a weekly basis. CPAC was custom-tailored to set him up with a perfect opportunity to face a crowd ready to come to their feet and cheer him just as his supporters have been doing since 2016.
With that in mind, Donald Trump may not actually be on the way to another bid. Or at least he may not have made up his mind yet. This was just the right place and the right time to keep his hand in the game, measure the response to his appearance and soak up the limelight as he’s done in the past. After watching this event unfold, I’m completely on the fence again as to whether or not this was just Trump reliving his political glory days or paving the path to his next campaign. As I said at the top, anyone who thinks they’ve figured out Donald Trump’s inner workings and can’t be surprised is kidding themselves.