NEWS AND OPINION:
It’s a first. The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is now underway in Orlando, Florida — some 850 miles away from its traditional Washington-area home but bolstered with an intensified sense of mission and purpose. There’s an evocative new motto — “America Uncanceled” — and every single event is sold out.
There is much media scrutiny. The New York Times has declared the event to be “a barometer for the Republican Party, newly out of power in Washington and trying to chart a way back.” National Public Radio suggests the event should now be known as TPAC, “because this year, it’s all about Trump.”
Well, yes, former President Donald Trump‘s presence is a huge and glittering factor. But the event is also all about attendees and contributors — including visiting groups such as CPAC Japan and Korea CPAC, Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, plus nine U.S. senators, 11 U.S. representatives and two state governors.
However, CPAC is not on the to-do list of former Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, neither of whom will be in attendance.
Mr. Trump is indeed the keynote speaker for the big doings, set to step onstage at 3:40 p.m. Sunday — likely to condemn President Biden‘s emerging policy issues and offer GOP alternatives. He could revisit an “America First” mindset, delve into election fraud and reveal his bid to retake the White House in 2024.
The Republican Party, meanwhile, is tasked with resolving an identity crisis by forging a productive alliance between MAGA-loving stalwarts and those who favor the proverbial “smoke-filled room” of old-school politics.
“My message to the establishment Republicans: You don’t have to like Trump to like his policies and you should love the millions of people he brought into this coalition. Let’s grow it, not shrink it,” American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp advised in a tweet Thursday.
The gathering, incidentally, will include standard safety guidelines for COVID-19, from mask-wearing and temperature checks to enhanced air filtration and social distancing. There also will be a heartfelt salute to the late Rush Limbaugh. And of course the news media is in full cry with predictions of drama and risk. A few stray headlines from the last 48 hours:
“Peril and opportunity for Trump at CPAC” (The Wall Street Journal); “CPAC conservative conference set to indulge lies about the 2020 election” (CNN); “CPAC‘s political clown car comes to Orlando” (Orlando Sentinel);”Trump to hammer Biden on immigration, China in CPAC speech” (Fox News); “Mike Pompeo is speaking at CPAC amid rumors of a 2024 bid” (Yahoo News); “CPAC can stop Trump’s ‘big lie.’ Here’s why it won’t” (MSNBC); and “CPAC to put 2020 election claims center stage just weeks after Capitol attack” (ABC News).
NOT SO FAST
A pair of “trusted former Trump White House aides” predict that former President Donald Trump won’t announce any formal plans to run in 2024 when he arrives on the CPAC stage.
Mr. Trump wants to know “where the party is going and especially the trajectory of the economy” before making a decision, according to Harry Kazianis — a contributor to the news organization 1945 — based on confidential exchanges with the two sources.
“A former White House [aide] who spoke to Trump recently about his CPAC address told me that the ex-president wants to get a sense of ‘where the party is going and especially the trajectory of the economy’ before making ‘a definitive decision either way,’” Mr. Kazianis wrote.
“Speaking on background, a past senior Trump White House adviser who also talked to the former president recently, explained that Trump wants to get ‘a sense of how he is perceived on the campaign trail in 2022 and how the GOP does in the midterms and if his performance helps or hurts candidates he endorses.’ And until he gets a sense of where the GOP is going, ‘he is going to keep all of his options open, so don’t look for him to make some grand 2024 announcement on Sunday.’ The former aide added that ‘Trump is not jumping into the race Sunday, that is for sure. Hinting at it, sure, that is possible, and I expect that. But nothing firm,’” Mr. Kazianis noted.
We’ll find out Sunday.
A TALE OF TWO GOVERNORS
A pair of prominent Democratic leaders — Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California — are finally getting quizzical looks and criticism from a normally friendly news media, says Liz Wolfe, a staff editor at Reason.
Both have led imperfect responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Why should the nation care?
“As Cuomo and Newsom face deserved condemnation and maybe even real consequences for their pandemic malfeasance, it’s worth remembering that the two combined make decisions affecting a collective 60 million people, or about 18% of the U.S. population. The pandemic — and subsequent deprivations of liberty in the form of cyclical lockdowns — are too-late reminders that we ought to be choosy not just about who sits in the Oval Office, but also the governor’s mansion,” writes Ms. Wolfe.
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POLL DU JOUR
• 70% of the world population agree that the economy in their country is “bad.”
• 64% agree that things in their nation “are heading in the wrong direction.”
• 50% worry about COVID-19, 37% about unemployment, 30% about poverty and 27% about political corruption.
• 24% worry about crime and violence, 23% about health care, 16% about education and 13% about taxes.
• 10% worry about immigration control, 10% about moral decline and 9% about threats to the environment.
• 7% worry about the rise of extremism and terrorism, 6% about maintaining social programs, 2% about childhood obesity.
SOURCE: An Ipsos Global Advisor poll of 19,520 adults in 27 participating countries conducted Jan. 18- Feb. 5 and released Wednesday. The poll let people pick multiple responses.
• Kindly follow Jennifer Harper on Twitter @HarperBulletin.