Former President Donald Trump on Saturday urged Republicans not to become complacent ahead of November’s midterm elections and warned that the U.S. stands at the precipice of becoming “Venezuela on steroids” should Democrats maintain control in Washington.
Mr. Trump, who headlined the Conservative Political Action Conference in Texas, continues to wield significant clout in the GOP and backed several successful primary candidates as the party eyes a red wave in Congress in the fall. But he said now is not the time for the party to rest on its laurels.
“This is no time for complacency,” he said. “We have to seize this opportunity to deal with the radical left, socialist lunatics and fascists. And we have to hit them very, very hard. It has to be a crippling defeat.”
“We have to run aggressive, unrelenting and boldly populist campaigns,” he said.
Republicans who have bucked the former president faced daunting odds in the primaries. But Democrats have hoped to leverage the same fervor that has given rise to their Republican opponents to their advantage in the fall betting that, when all is said and done, voters will back moderate Democrats over Republicans who remain in Trump’s pocket.
The GOP, however, shows no signs of giving up on Mr. Trump, who continues to hint at a 2024 presidential bid.
The former president decisively won CPAC’s 2024 Republican presidential nomination straw poll, capturing 69% of the anonymous online ballots collected during the three-day event. Support for Mr. Trump was up from 59% at CPAC ’s Orlando summit in February.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis followed in second on the presidential nomination question in the latest CPAC poll, garnering 24% of the vote.
And Mr. Trump has been unafraid to throw his political weight around within the party.
During his address on Saturday, Mr. Trump thrashed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, for failing to block key Biden administration priorities.
The remarks coincided with a rare weekend Senate vote in which Democrats cleared a key procedural hurdle on the path toward passing their $740 billion health care, climate, tax and spending package, setting up a significant win for the party after months of tense back-and-forth over the cornerstone bill in President Biden’s long-stalled legislative agenda.
Mr. Trump placed much of the blame squarely at the feet of the Kentucky Republican.
“I told the old broken crow, Mitch McConnell, that this was going to happen,” Mr. Trump said. “I said it loud and clear.”
Mr. Trump said the Senate Republican leader’s approval of the Democrats’ infrastructure bill led to a slippery slope in Congress.
“He said, ‘If we improve this one, they will never come back and ask for more,’” Mr. Trump said. “And guess what, they’re voting on it now.”
The former president made several less-than-veiled threats toward his foe from Kentucky, telling the crowd that Mr. McConnell had “hurt our party very badly.”
“McConnell is the most unpopular politician in the country,” he said. “Even more so than crazy [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi. And something has to be done.”
Nonetheless, Mr. Trump called on the party to unite.
“We have to do what we have to do to bring our nation back,” he said. “America is on the edge of an abyss, and our movement is the only force on earth that can save it. What we do in the next few months and the next few years will determine whether American civilization will collapse or fail, or whether it will triumph.”
Correction: In a previous version of this story, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s title was listed incorrectly.