Former president Donald Trump declared today that he is considering a presidential run in 2024, has ruled out forming a third party and will devote himself to building up Republican efforts to take on Democrats and others he claimed have targeted his movement.
WAPO: The address before an ebullient crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference marked Trump’s first political address since leaving the White House.
It was staged as a public declaration of Trump’s intention to play a dominant political role through the 2022 election and, potentially, set himself up for a third campaign for the White House in 2024.
“We began it together four years ago and it is far from being over,” Trump said, of the political journey launched by his 2016 campaign. “Let there be no doubt we will be victorious and America will be stronger and greater than ever before.”
Trump’s speech came as he has been putting the finishing touches on a new political structure that he intends to use to cement his dominance over the GOP.
“We are not starting new parties,” he said. “We have the Republican Party. It is going to unite and be stronger than ever before.”
Trump also launched an expected attack on President Biden, echoing many of the themes of his winning 2016 presidential campaign and its losing sequel in 2020.
He alleged that Biden had “the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history,” before attacking the president for his shift on border security policy, the pace of school reopenings and his energy policies.
He predicted withering Democratic losses in the 2022 midterms and a Democratic loss of the White House four years from now.
He again repeated the false claims about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, which Democrats won.
“Actually as you know they just lost the White House,” he said, falsely of the Democratic Party. “But who knows, I might even decide to beat them for a third time.”
Trump took the stage immediately after the release of a 2024 presidential straw poll of conference attendees, conducted by Trump campaign pollster Jim McLaughlin.
In a surprise bit of downbeat news for Trump, only 68 percent of those at the conference said they wanted the former president to run again in 2024.
The poll found 55 percent supported Trump’s election in 2024, if he ran, with 21 percent supporting Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.
No other contender hit double digits.
Without Trump as an option, DeSantis led the field with 43 percent, followed by South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem with 11 percent.
Former vice president Mike Pence was at 1 percent in the poll with Trump removed.
The poll reflected a broader celebration of Trump’s term in office that coursed through the entire event.
“The Make American Great Again movement is the base of our movement,” McLaughlin said before Trump took the stage.
Trump has made plans to start a new super PAC, which will be able to raise donations of unlimited size from corporations and individuals, while also exploring the possibility of drafting a bullet-pointed “America First” agenda, which fellow Republicans could sign onto in a show of fealty to his leadership.
He is also moving quickly to formalize a process for endorsing candidates in Republican primaries, with a goal of punishing those Republicans who have criticized him in recent months.
He formally backed a former White House aide, Max Miller, Friday as a primary opponent to Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), who was one of 10 Republicans to vote for Trump’s impeachment in January.
A Trump adviser also has said he is preparing to endorse former Ohio party chair and Trump loyalist Jane Timken to replace retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman in that state.
Trump spent significant time defending his record in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, claiming to have “handed the new administration what everyone is now calling a modern day medical miracle,” with a variety of effective vaccines. He also attacked Biden for the slow pace of reopening the schools.
“On behalf of the moms, dads and children of America, I call on Joe Biden to get the schools open and get the schools open now,” he said.
Hanging over the event was an ongoing dispute within the Republican Party and conservative movement over the legitimacy of the 2020 election, which Trump lost but continues to falsely say was stolen from him.
Months of such baseless assertions led to a Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters who sought to prevent legislators from certifying the election results.
In private conversations, Trump has recently backed away from his unsubstantiated claims that voting machine hacking or election supervisor duplicity had been responsible for his loss, according to people who have spoken with him.
But he has continued to claim he was the rightful winner of the election, including today.
Speakers at the conference repeatedly cited false claims of election fraud from the event’s stages.
“My biggest honor today is going to be that, I think, we are going to be on the same stage as, in my opinion, the real, the legitimate, and still the actual president of the United States, Donald Trump,” Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue said earlier on Sunday. “We still have faith that the majority of the people of the United States voted for the president.”
Biden defeated Trump by 7 million votes nationally and his victories in key swing states like Georgia and Arizona were instrumental in delivering Biden a majority of the electoral votes.
Biden has also maintained far higher approval ratings than Trump in his first weeks in office, with 56 percent of Americans saying last month in a Gallup poll that they approve of his presidency.
Among Republicans, 34 percent in the same poll approved of Biden’s response to the pandemic.