There are many words to describe Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE’s much-ballyhooed appearance before CPAC on Sunday: rambling, spiteful, scatter-shot, recycled, bizarre, angry, totally-divorced-from-reality, predictable and pathetic.
All of which are true. But all of which miss the point. The real story at CPAC wasn’t Trump’s almost 90-minute speech. It was the straw poll CPAC released ahead of time. Trump may have been happy with the crowd’s response to his speech, but he can’t be happy with the results of that poll.
Trump, who never conceded defeat and refused to attend his successor’s inauguration, refused to follow the model of former presidents by standing quietly on the sidelines and letting his successor govern. Instead, he devoted the first half of his talk attacking what he called “the most disastrous first month of any administration in history.”
Curiously, for the man who still does not believe in climate change, he accused President BidenJoe BidenFord to bolster electric vehicle production in multi-billion dollar push Protesters demonstrate outside Manchin's houseboat over opposition to reconciliation package Alabama eyes using pandemic relief funds on prison system MORE of being “anti-science.” Trump, who rejected the CDC’s advice on wearing masks, took 100 percent credit for recent progress against the disease, asserting that Biden “was only following our plan.” He also accused Biden of opening up the border to gang members, criminals, and rapists, and blamed him for leading the country from “radicalism to socialism to communism.”
Then, even though aides begged him not to, Trump spent the second half of his speech repeating the big lie that he actually won the Nov. 3 election. “We won the election twice,” he crowed. “This election was rigged!” And, going where no president has gone before, Trump also attacked the Supreme Court, including three justices appointed by him, for failing to overturn the election. “They should be ashamed of themselves,” he roared. “They didn’t have the guts or courage to act.”
So much for Trump’s speech. It was pure red meat, just what the Orlando audience wanted to hear. But, again, the real story out of CPAC was not Trump’s speech, it was CPAC’s straw poll. With his speech, CPAC members got just what they wanted out of Trump, but, according to the poll, he didn’t get everything he wanted out of them.
Trump went to Orlando for one reason: to claim leadership of the Republican Party and assert his intention to run for reelection in 2024. “Who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time,” he teased. To which, the response from CPAC was only lukewarm.
According to results of the secret ballot of 1,336 attendees — conducted for CPAC by Trump pollster John McLaughlin and released just prior to Trump’s speech — 95 percent said the Republican Party should move forward with Trump’s agenda. But they were far less enthusiastic about moving forward with Trump himself.
Even though 97 percent approved Trump’s record in office, only 68 percent said he should run again for president. And, as if that’s not bad enough, when pitted against other potential candidates in a Republican primary, Trump scored only 55 percent. Against Trump, freshman Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisHillicon Valley — Presented by Ericsson — Instagram 'pausing' kid-targeted plan DeSantis orders Florida official to investigate Facebook for 'alleged election interference' America isn't first — it's far behind — and studies point to Republicans MORE pulled 21 percent of the vote.
That is stunning. And represents by far, the biggest news to come out of CPAC. What it means is that, no matter how loudly they cheer publicly, in private, not even Trump’s most fervent supporters, the Trumpiest of the Trumpers, are sure they want him to run again in 2024.
Why? Because they know he would lose, and drag them down with him. At CPAC, Emperor Trump came out of hiding. And his followers discovered the Emperor wears no clothes.
Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”