Conservative activists are overwhelmingly ready for Senate Republicans to trigger the “nuclear option” and force Judge Neil Gorsuch onto the Supreme Court, according to the 2017 CPAC/Washington Times straw poll, which also showed the activists feel the GOP doesn’t have Mr. Trump’s back.
Overall the poll, of 1,447 attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference Saturday, showed a movement that is now firmly in Mr. Trump’s corner: They believe he is realigning the conservative movement, they generally don’t mind his frequent use of Twitter, and they approve of his extreme vetting executive order.
But even as they like what he’s doing, their top priorities align more closely with long-standing Republican orthodoxy: Tax reform and repealing Obamacare, which have been congressional Republican goals for years, are by far at the top of the activists’ list. Mr. Trump’s border wall, his call for an infrastructure package and even the extreme vetting all place lower.
“I’m not … all gung-ho about the wall — I just want stronger immigration,” said Myah Bowermaster, a student at Tarleton State University in Texas. “But right now I’m really worried about the tax code, specifically lowering corporate tax and having fairer trade deals, because I’m not for cronyism. I don’t like the Carrier deal.”
Mr. Trump, during the presidential transition, enticed air conditioning manufacturer Carrier to keep a plant in Indiana by having the state offer an incentives package — delivering an early talking point to the president-elect.
Conservatives also seem to slightly prefer Mr. Trump’s approach to trade, with 38 percent saying they back his desire to slap tariffs on foreign countries. Just 33 percent, meanwhile, back the House GOP’s preferred option of a border-adjustment tax. Another 13 percent said Congress should ditch both ideas and work on something else, and a large share — 17 percent — were unsure.
Overall, Mr. Trump had an 86 percent approval rate from CPAC attendees, with 55 percent saying they “strongly” approve of the job he’s doing. And 67 percent said Republicans in Congress “should be doing more” to support him, while just 8 percent wanted the GOP to throw up roadblocks for the president.
One clear unifying factor for conservatives was Mr. Trump’s pick of Judge Gorsuch to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. A staggering 94 percent said they approved, and 83 percent approved “strongly” of the choice.
Three-quarters also said they want to see Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell use the “nuclear option” — using a shortcut to change the rules and curtail the power of the filibuster — should Democrats rally to try to block the judge.
“I don’t think the Democrats are going to do anything at all to help this country, so we got to do it on our own,” said Steve Savarese, 74, who works in real estate in New York, and was one of those who wants Republicans to be ready to go nuclear.
He also said Mr. Trump’s Twitter use doesn’t bother him.
“He communicates directly with the people. It doesn’t get filtered by the media,” Mr. Savarese said. “There are some media outlets that are not [fair]. They twist it and then they present it as news when it’s not.”