Douglas Andrews / February 26, 2021

At CPAC, DeSantis and Trump Loom Large

The GOP’s present and future will be featured this weekend at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

The Conservative Political Action Conference, the world’s largest and most influential gathering of conservatives, kicks off today in Orlando. “American Uncanceled” is the working title of this year’s event, and its prevailing themes will, appropriately, include the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

“If you want to be the president of the United States,” said Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts the event, “if you want to secure the Republican nomination, you come to CPAC. Essentially, the 2024 race starts at CPAC.”

To watch CPAC streamed live, click here.

Today’s speakers’ agenda is a who’s who of high-profile conservatives and rising stars within the Republican Party. This includes the governor of the event’s host state of Florida — a governor whose stock has been soaring of late, in large part because of his handling of the pandemic and his efforts on election integrity and Big Tech censorship.

Thus, prior to DeSantis taking the stage to open CPAC this morning, Daniel Payne at Just the News wrote that “it will be as a fast-rising force in the conservative movement and an increasingly plausible and popular contender for his party’s presidential nomination in 2024.”

DeSantis won a razor-thin victory in his 2018 gubernatorial race, but only the deadest of Dead-End Democrats are today wishing their guy, Andrew Gillum, had won. As Payne continues, “The deadly COVID-19 pandemic revealed DeSantis as a capable and independent-minded executive whose state is doing better than most by key pandemic metrics, even as the governor flouted much of the received wisdom on COVID mitigation while defying critics who claimed his state would become a death trap. At the same time, DeSantis has also signaled his willingness to take on Big Tech … with targeted legislation.”

If you think leftists and their mainstream media bootlickers are afraid of DeSantis, you’re right. They’re doing everything they can to smear him. And they’re failing. He’s the young and popular governor of the ultimate swing state, and he’s shown a Trump-like willingness to punch back at the media — albeit in more measured tones. Perhaps most important of all, though, is that DeSantis has done his part to keep the Republican Party together rather than contribute to its fracture along pro-Trump and anti-Trump lines. Unlike certain others in his party, he simply refused to take the Left’s bait and denounce his party’s standard-bearer in the wake of the January 6 riots.

Here, folks like Senators Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney, and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, might want to take some notes. Perhaps they already have. McConnell and Romney have been notably deferential when asked about Donald Trump lately, and Haley, who herself has been seen as a possible 2024 presidential candidate, has virtually disappeared.

So DeSantis will welcome the crowd today, and he’ll be followed by an array of others intent on appealing to their party’s conservative base, including Senators Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, and Josh Hawley. But CPAC attendees — every last one of them — know that they’ll have to wait until Sunday for the conference’s marquee attraction: Donald John Trump.

Our nation’s 45th president has kept his powder pretty dry since Joe Biden took office last month, but all that will change this weekend.

As the Washington Examiner’s David Drucker reports, “Trump is still a winner in the hearts of so many Republican voters; they would love to see him mount a third White House bid. The 45th president, declining to rule it out, is to address CPAC Sunday in central Florida, just a short trip from his new home base in Palm Beach, in the most anticipated speech of the annual gathering of Republican insiders and grassroots conservatives.”

Trump is expected to hammer Biden on pretty much everything he’s done so far in office — immigration, China, the works.

And, as Fox News reports, “Trump is expected to fall just short of announcing a 2024 presidential bid. The sources said he will go between ‘warming up to the idea of a 2024 run, and walking right up to the line of announcing another campaign.’”

Trump is expected to take the stage at 3:40 ET Sunday afternoon. On Monday morning, we’ll have a chance to analyze how closely he hewed to this script.

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