(Oxon Hill) Former President Donald Trump said Saturday he would continue his third presidential campaign even if indicted.
“Absolutely, I wouldn’t even think about leaving,” Trump told reporters before a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Donald Trump is being investigated by prosecutors over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results as well as his handling of classified documents, among other issues.
Donald Trump delivered the conference’s keynote address on Saturday night, telling a cheering crowd of supporters that he was engaged in his “final battle” as he tried to return to the White House.
“We’re going to finish what we started,” he said. We will complete the mission. We will fight this battle until the ultimate victory. »
While CPAC was once a go-to stop for Republican presidential candidates, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is seen as one of Trump’s top potential challengers, and other likely top contenders have skipped the gathering this year amid scandal and as the group has increasingly become aligned with Donald Trump.
The former president’s enduring popularity with this part of the electorate was evident throughout the conference this week. Some attendees wore Mr. Trump-themed outfits, complete with “MAGA” hats and sequined jackets. Prospective and declared candidates who made no mention of Donald Trump received only half-hearted applause.
And CPAC’s annual poll, an unscientific survey of attendees, found Donald Trump the top choice to be the party’s nominee, with 62% support, followed by Mr. DeSantis at 20% and the man businessman Perry Johnson, who announced his long offer at the conference, with 5%.
Almost everyone – 95% of respondents – said they approved of Donald Trump’s performance as president.
“It’s an audience that supports President Trump,” said Representative Elise Stefanik, the No. 3 Republican in the House Representatives, who endorsed Mr. Trump days before the official launch of his 2024 campaign.
The only member of the Chamber’s management to attend the conference, Ms.me Stefanik told The Associated Press that Mr. Trump continues to be the leader of the party.
“President Trump is in a very strong position and I think he will be the Republican nominee,” she said.
As his potential opponents for the White House presented themselves to conservative donors near his home in Florida, in his speech, Donald Trump repeatedly criticized the Republican “establishment”, which is eager to move on from the former president.
“We had a Republican Party run by freaks, neo-conservatives, globalists, open-border fanatics, and jerks. But we will never go back to the party of Paul Ryan, Karl Rove and Jeb Bush,” he said.
He also shot an arrow at Mr. DeSantis, calling out those who have proposed raising the age for the federal Social Security benefits program or privatizing Medicare — positions that Mr. DeSantis has expressed in the past, but that he has since been abandoned. “We’re not going to play with Social Security as Republicans,” DeSantis said recently.
Donald Trump told the crowd, “If that’s their initial thought, that’s what they always come back to. »
While many high-profile Republicans avoided the conference, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley both spoke on Friday and threw spikes at Donald Trump.
Mme Haley has declared her candidacy, but Mr. Pompeo has yet to formalize it. Their refusal to call him by name underscored the risks faced by opponents seeking to offer an alternative in a party in which Mr Trump remains the dominant force.
“There’s no one in this field that I want as president other than Donald J. Trump,” said Waverly Woods, a Republican activist and marketer from Virginia, who mentioned she likes Mr. DeSantis, but that Mr. Trump held first place in the hearts of many of the conference attendees.
But not everyone at CPAC agreed.
E. Payne Kilbourn, a retired Navy submarine captain from Neavitt, Maryland, said he was “very, very” happy with Donald Trump’s presidency, but is now time for the party to move on.
“I think Donald Trump is just too toxic for most of the country,” said Mr. Kilbourn, 69, an independent who votes for Republicans in the general election and wants Mr. Trump “to step aside and be fair. the guy behind the scenes.
Strategically, he sees Mr. DeSantis as better positioned to eventually win the White House. He believes he has a better chance of being elected.