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The Big News Out of CPAC 2022 Is That Trump Is Back

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/John Raoux

I’m not going to bury the lede the way the mainstream media is trying to bury the COVID, inflation, and dementia disasters: Donald Trump is running again. He gave every indication of it in public and at private events, and the word from the people within his orbit is unanimous - he’s already planning his next administration. Like it or not - there are plenty of folks unthrilled about him going Grover - you better get used to it. 


Trump is back. He looked great - slim, smiling, a total 180 from the talking husk we’re stuck with until January 20, 2025. And he’s funny. A hilarious highlight was when 45 pointed out Dr. Seb Gorka at a private event and called him a “handsome and elegant man.” I’d enjoy having Trump back because he’s so damn amusing, if for no other reason.

Before we get to the politics, CPAC 2022 in Orlando (a popular site except for Beltway types) was packed and people were pumped. Matt Schlapp, who was literally everywhere all the time, put on a proper show. I counted only one screaming lunatic. BTW, CPAC is going international - coming soon are CPAC Hungary, Japan, Mexico and Australia (where they really need it). Townhall’s own Larry O’Connor emceed the annual Reagan dinner and there was a tiny controversy over having Tulsi Gabbard speak, but we should encourage those few Democrats who do not hate us. There was also a minor controversy about how O’Connor was actually funny, which is not truly conservative in the eyes of some who apparently never met Andrew Breitbart (O’Connor also hosted a moving panel on the 10th anniversary of Andrew’s passing). Regardless, if O’Connor had used the really hardcore Kamala and Lincoln Project jokes I wrote for him, the critics really would have had something to whine about.

There was also gossip about key races. Eric Schmitt seems to have the momentum over that Greitens guy for the Senate in the Show Me State; while tying women up in your basement would be a plus in California, it’s not helpful in Missouri. While Liz Cheney was cavorting with Never Trump sissies and squeezing donors, her opponent Harriet Hageman was at CPAC and word is that the Beltway Cowgirl is doomed. I was glad not to see TN-5 grassroots favorite and CPAC veteran Robby Starbuck in Orlando; he was back home knocking on doors. Also, word on the street is that non-pol national security guy Alex Gray may jump into the open Oklahoma Senate seat race.


This year’s CPAC started out overshadowed by Ukraine and the fake news about how the GOP’s evolving views on foreign policy apply. The relatively few regime media reporters in attendance eagerly approached candidates and pundits as if they had themselves courageously grabbed one of those AK47s Ukraine is handing out to civilians and smugly asked “Do you support Trump and Tucker and JD Vance’s love affair with Putin?” To which the proper response would be “You mean the Trump who killed a bunch of Russian mercs in Syria, tried to get the deadbeat Deutsche to pay up for NATO, and who didn’t use the racist filibuster to stop Nord Stream 2 sanctions?” And the irony-immune ruling caste mouthpieces would nod “Yeah, him.”

If you have any doubts about where the GOP stands on Putin - and only dumb or dishonest people do - you should go hear what Ambassador Robert O’Brien, Ambassador Ric Grenell and radio legend Mark Levin had to say. Trump’s speech, which thrilled the audience - what a refreshing change from the shaky teleprompter reading by that mumbling zombie currently occupying 1600 - paid tribute to the Ukrainians fighting the invaders. The problem for Trump, which is only a problem because his critics are hacks, is that he tends to not read the memo about how official enemies are to be assessed and described. You are supposed to confuse “evil” (which Putin is) with “incompetent” or “crazy.” We will see if he is incompetent - the legacy media and pro-Ukrainian social media is telling us thee Russians are stalled and we will see if that’s true or what Grandpa Badfinger would characterize as “malarkey.” One thing he is not is crazy. That minimizes the threat and obscures the reality. He is a Russian ultra-nationalist influenced by Orthodox mysticism and Slavic history that you and I cannot fully comprehend who views Ukraine as an essential component of the nation wrongly stripped from Russia’s rightful sphere of influence after the USSR imploded. He’s not nuts; in the context of what he thinks, he’s entirely rational. In fact, he seized the initiative and got inside our crusty commander-in-chief’s decision cycle and was running circles around him for the last couple weeks. If Putin fails it’s not going to be because the guy who split for Delaware beat him but because his military failed in executing the Russian version of shock and aweski.


So, Trump got grief for correctly assessing the enemy and there was an invented controversy about others “liking Putin.” Okay, you can dislike Putin and think that the battle in Ukraine is not as important to Americans as the battle for our country here at home. Here’s a revelation - you can care about several things at once - though the “caring” test is kind of stupid in that it involves merely having the approved position and perhaps tweeting a selfie with a supportive hashtag rather than actually doing something. Adults prioritize. Restoring the stability of the international borders in Europe, such as it is, is important. So is securing our borders, and our failed ruling caste would much rather fulminate about doings transpiring across the globe than be held accountable for the disaster it is overseeing here at home. There’s nothing wrong with pointing out the undeniable fact that this administration wants to leverage someone else’s war to excuse and obscure our own domestic problems. Mad about inflation? Blame Putin. Baloney! Remember those “sacrifices” Hunter’s Daddy told us we will be making? We would have been making them even if Putin had kept his tanks in Moscow. The message is “Everyone think about Ukraine and nothing else!” but we’re not going to let them off the hook like that. I want both lethal aid to Ukraine and no mask mandates.

These attacks on Trump are part of the concerted effort by the media to try to kneecap him before 2024. And it’s kind of an odd strategy since you might think they would want him as the GOP candidate, yet with fake news and threatened indictments and such, it seems they want to disqualify him. As bad as Biden’s favorability gets - and he’s polling on par with hobo scat - Trump is the one Republican with a ceiling. Some people just hate hate hate him and will never vote for him. To win, in 2024, he has to both make sure the election is secure - and, as the president, he was the boss so he was therefore responsible for the GOP’s failure to adequately prepare for the 2020 election - and win every single non-Never Trump voter. That’s going to be hard. The left did him a favor dumping him from social media, as his absence made the collective heart grow fonder among those who (unlike me) disliked his Twitter style. Now they want to do the GOP a favor disqualifying that guy who will have to pull off a perfect alignment of the stars to win? 


And many cons at CPAC worried about this. They correctly assess Trump’s vulnerabilities. But there are a lot of factors at play. This includes his opponent, the subject of my panel. Rep. Ronny Jackson agreed that there’s no way the senile sap could run again. Monica Crowley pointed out that Felonia Milhouse von Pantsuit is eyeing a run but warned that Michelle Obama could too. Jack Posobiec thinks Kamala will run, meaning we could have a president who has made out with Montel Williams. Shiver.

Another factor is other Republicans. Mike Pompeo, looking trim, showed up. Governor Ron DeSantis made a spectacular speech - he got a standing O - that owed a lot to the Trump style. It was all about promises made, promised kept. The secret of Trump is not funny nicknames for political enemies. It’s about identifying issues that the voters care about but that the establishment wants to ignore, then promising to fix them and keeping those promises. DeSantis did that - he laid out the concerns that get our blood pumping but that our betters decree we cannot speak of, like CRT, crime and illegal aliens, and then told us how he fixed them in Florida. He is a star and will be president someday.

But will he run in 2024? It’s obvious that Trump World is trying to clear the field and avoid a primary by taking the nomination by acclamation. That’s a mistake - if you want President Trump 2.0, you should want to vigorous primary in 2024 because he needs to be honed and sharpened for the general election. The 2016 primary made him a better candidate. We saw what happened in 2020. Mike Pompeo will get in; Ron DeSantis should. So should Kristi Noem, but only so her inevitable humiliating defeat provides a lesson to all the Chamber of Commerce cons about what happens when you side with the squishes and then try to tell us we are dumb for noticing. A primary will make a stronger candidate for the general; while Trump wants a coronation, he needs a fight.


But make no mistake. The takeaway for CPAC 2022 is that Donald Trump will be a candidate in 2024. Maybe we’ll know more by summer CPAC this August in Dallas.

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