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Trump is Back With a Vengeance as Conservatives Cheer Barnstorming CPAC Address

© AP Photo / Alex BrandonFormer President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, Saturday, March 4, 2023, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, Saturday, March 4, 2023, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.03.2023
A de facto boycott by establishment Republicans has turned the unofficial first GOP primary into a full-on MAGA-fest.
Trump is back, America.
That’s the main message from the freewheeling address the former US President delivered to a raucous audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at Gaylord National Resort in Maryland on Saturday night.
After the straw poll revealed Trump annihilated his nearest competitor, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, by 62-20, there was little doubt that the conference — which has long served as a bellwether of Republican primary sentiment — is now firmly-held MAGA territory.
And from start to finish, the former president made clear that he knows it.
Even before speaking, Trump marched on stage to rapturous applause and basked in the limelight as the song “Proud To Be An American” played through in its entirety before being drowned out by chants of “USA, USA.”
Having been primed with a high-octane video that alluded to rising inflation, the border crisis, and the Biden administration’s disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal, the crowd was already on its feet and giving him their full attention. And Trump gave it right back.
This is “the greatest political movement in the history of our country,” he crowed. "And we're fighting in the most important battle of our lives,” he said, which “is taking place as we speak.”
It’s a fight he discussed in Biblical terms, at one point describing an “epic struggle” for the future of the country they’ve engaged in for seven years against the people he claimed “want to destroy” America.
“This is the final battle,” he roared, and “everyone knows it.”
“Either they win or we win,” he said, “and if they win, we no longer have a country.”
“In 2016, I declared: I am your voice. Today, I add: I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed: I am your retribution.”
The former president was in full-on campaign mode, eschewing the conditional and embracing the future tense.
“We will demolish the deep state,” he promised. “We will expel the warmongers.”
He returned frequently to the theme of driving out the military industrial complex and its associates.
“They are people that don’t get it, or in some cases they do get it — they get it for their wallet.”
But “we are never going back to a party that wants to give unlimited money to fight foreign endless wars but demands we cut veteran benefits and retirement benefits at home,” he insisted.
His long-standing criticisms of NATO weren’t far behind either.
“When you look at Ukraine, why isn’t NATO putting up dollar for dollar with us?” he asked. “We put up 140 billion dollars and they put up almost nothing.”
While he reserved his harshest criticism for “deep-state globalists,” the “RINOs” — or ‘Republicans In Name Only’ — weren’t far behind.
“We had a Republican Party that was ruled by freaks,” Trump said, but he insisted “we are never going back to the party of Paul Ryan, Karl Rove, and Jeb Bush.”
Though he didn’t reference them by name, he was especially critical of likely primary challengers Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who he noted “want to raise the minimum age of Social Security to 70, 75 or even 80 in some cases,” and “who are out to cut Medicare to a level that will be unrecognizable.”
“We are never going back to the people that want to destroy our great social security system… even some in our own party, I wonder who that might be,” he said wryly.
Even before it began, the event was marked by a public split between Trump and the more pro-establishment conservatives that controlled the party before his ascension and have been working to take it back since his 2020 defeat.
The only other likely Republican candidates to speak at CPAC were Nikki Haley, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and former Secretary of State and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Other contenders, including DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, all opted instead to attend a closed door meeting of the anti-Trump Club for Growth in Palm Beach, Florida.

Trump previously addressed the situation on his social media platform Truth Social (which he had created after being permanently suspended by Twitter), explaining that “the only reason certain 'candidates' won't be going to CPAC is because the crowds have no interest in anything they have to say,” adding, “they’ve heard it all before, and don't want to hear it again."
And the other Republicans, he suggested, simply don’t have what it takes.
"I am the only candidate who can make this promise: I will prevent World War Three," Trump said. “I will totally obliterate the deep state,” he promised.
And for “RINOs and globalists” alike, Trump promised CPAC attendees, “if you put me back in the White House, their reign is over.”
“And they know it,” he added.
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