The Right Resistance: The only question for Trump at CPAC is how big his straw poll win will be
Amidst all the recent news coverage of the Canadian truckers, Ukraine and Russia and the startling revelation by Special Counsel John Durham that there’s alleged proof Hillary Clinton
and her fellow Democrats spied on Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016 -- and afterwards in the White House -- it was easy to overlook or forget that the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is set to begin this week in Florida.
CPAC is always a terrific place to see the who’s who of the contemporary conservative movement up close, and this year’s speakers list is certainly impressive. Headlined by former president Donald Trump, the event promises to produce a healthy dose of Democrat scourging and serve up an appropriate amount of political gossip as well as toss hints at what’s to come later this year in Republican campaign messaging. It's always fun to observe the extravaganza, and CPAC’s importance is hard to overstate. That being said, what happens at CPAC usually stays at CPAC. Conservatives still have plenty of work to do to defeat Democrats and, for a lack of a better way to put it, make America great again. Beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess as to what will transpire in the Sunshine State this week. Will there be fireworks? In a piece titled, “CPAC's straw poll is the first Trump vs. DeSantis primary”, Trump critic Myra Adams wrote at The Hill:
“During Trump’s speech, attendees will give him the rock-star treatment, but are they ready to store his baggage and move ahead? That sentiment can be quantified in CPAC’s straw poll. Through the CPAC app, attendees vote once for who they think should top the 2024 ticket. A surprise outcome would explode headlines with days of punditry.
“As a baseline, let’s review the outcome of CPAC’s 2021 straw poll from last February. The Hill reported Trump won ‘55 percent of respondents saying they would vote for him in a hypothetical 2024 primary’ and ‘21 percent said they’d vote for DeSantis.’ But, with Trump off the ‘primary ballot,’ DeSantis earned 43 percent, with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) at 11 percent.
“A year later, with DeSantis significantly raising his name ID and national profile, Trump has disparaged the popular governor. The former president said he would defeat DeSantis in a primary, bragged he was responsible for Ron’s success, called DeSantis ‘dull,’ lacking in ‘personal charisma,’ and indirectly accused him of being ‘gutless.’ (The latter was thoughtless since DeSantis, then an active-duty Navy officer, won a Bronze Star serving as the legal adviser to Seal Team One in Fallujah, Iraq.)”
Um, sure. Both men insist there’s no rivalry, Myra. Period. How would Trump benefit by picking a war with DeSantis, the GOP’s most popular governor?
Reading this, you can’t help but feel that Adams is merely one of many media members and Trump-bashers (mostly the same thing) desperately hoping something newsworthy emerges from CPAC. For their own sakes, these desperate souls pray that a Trump/DeSantis feud will not only give them a new “horse” in the 2024 race, but if a tussle does develop, the controversy will provide them plenty of subject matter to flap their gums about in the next year or so -- or at least until the next CPAC straw poll. Although Myra holds obvious contempt for Trump, it’s not fair to label her an establishment stooge, since she does seem to really like Ron DeSantis. Who wouldn’t? The Florida governor not only talks a great conservative game, he walks the walk. It’s hard to name one issue that conservatives value that hasn’t been directly addressed by Gov. Ron. He’s taken on the Biden administration over COVID; he’s gone after Big Tech censorship; he’s made a point to highlight Biden’s feeble illegal immigration policies; he’s drawn up voting integrity measures… The list goes on and on. DeSantis would make a fine presidential candidate in 2024 or whenever he decides to run. But here’s thinking he won’t challenge Trump, because it’s almost certainly a losing proposition for him and would be disastrous for the party at a time when Republicans need every legitimate vote to beat senile Joe, Hillary Clinton, or whomever the hideous Democrats put up in the next quadrennial national election. The Florida governor isn’t an egotist. He’s a conservative political pragmatist. DeSantis gains nothing by picking a verbal sparring contest with Trump, mostly because there’s no way he could win it. Trump is the most famous politician in America right now. DeSantis has a solid and growing following, but would the Trump working class in the rust belt drop the hero of America First for a new guy at this point? Adams is off-base. Her Trump aversion is getting the best of her. While it’s certainly true that the CPAC straw poll is worth a perusal to determine who’s at the forefront of conservative activists’ minds, the tally in itself is not a be-all, end-all prerequisite for future success in the Republican party. Let’s not forget that Mitt Romney won the poll four times, in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012. With all due deference to the conference attendees those years, Romney ain’t no conservative, and many of us said so. The Paul family (Ron and Rand) has also enjoyed CPAC straw poll success, taking the top spot five years out of six last decade (Ron in 2010 and 2011; Rand in 2013, 2014 and 2015). Family patriarch Ron is regarded as more libertarian than traditional conservative, and Rand was a favorite of many conservatives in the lead-up to 2016, but most liberty lovers ultimately went with Ted Cruz in the GOP primaries -- and then Trump when the party presidential race was winding down. The sensible conclusion from examining the CPAC winners over the years is the most organized candidate almost always wins. When flip-flopper Romney won in 2007, for example, one particularly enterprising man was seen in a dolphin costume, which he labeled “Flipper”. It was no secret that Romney’s backers and campaign had “packed” the convention specifically so the former Massachusetts governor could top the poll and therefore be viewed as popular with conservatives. It should also be noted that eventual 2008 GOP presidential nominee, John McCain, came in a close second to Romney that election year, with Mitt scoring 35 percent to McCain’s 34. After eight years of George W. Bush at that point, there wasn’t a true conservative “dog in the hunt” so to speak. Bush Republicanism was at its apex in the party, and CPAC reflected that power.
Though this year’s straw poll could conceivably be closer than last year’s, here’s guessing that Trump will win handily for several reasons.
First, the Trump political organization will see to it. If the above referenced years were heavily influenced by “campaigns” to ensure that their candidate did well, the same rationale goes double for Trump in 2022. With all the media noise of late speculating on the former president starting to lose grip on his command of the GOP, Trump will go all-out to guarantee that no one will talk about anyone else after CPAC. Whereas many pundits and commentators gloated over Liz Cheney potentially being removed from her House leadership post a year ago at this time, party turncoats are not as big of an issue now. Cheney got the boot, subsequently joined with Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats to participate in their farce January 6 commission, and the rest is history.
Needless to say, there won’t be any anti-Trump voices at this year’s CPAC. Liz Cheney and her ilk won’t be there to feed the media false baloney about discontent in the GOP. Don’t forget that it was just a couple weeks ago that RNC members voted to censure Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. Who’s stronger now?
Second, a lot has changed in the year since CPAC 2021. In addition to Cheney being on the outs, Trump has risen like a Phoenix from the ashes on the American political scene. Many speculated that his popularity would wane after the disastrous end to his first term, but reality has been just the opposite.
Trump is back to conducting big-time rallies attended by tens of thousands of people. He still comments on current events. Being kicked off social media has turned out to be a good thing (maybe) for him. The former president has all-but declared that he’s going to run again.
It could be the most remarkable political comeback in American history. The GOP nomination is essentially his for the taking.
Lastly, all the focus is on Trump at CPAC, and that’s exactly where he wants it. Never discount the man’s ability to please an audience. DeSantis is a talented politician, a good speaker and a great man, but there’s no one quite like Donald Trump for entertaining and thrilling a crowd.
I don’t think the poll results will be close.
This year’s CPAC promises to be one heck of an interesting few days. Unlike last year, the Republican party is mostly united and enthusiastic about the future now. Donald Trump has not only come back from political obscurity, he’s once again leading the charge for conservatives and populists on the electoral stage. Stand back and watch the show.
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