Trump to proclaim himself the future of the Republican Party in speech
By Steve Holland and Jarrett Renshaw
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former President Donald Trump will declare himself the dominant figure in the broken Republican Party on Sunday, attacking President Joe Biden in his first big appearance since leaving the White House nearly six weeks ago.
"I stand before you today to declare that the incredible journey we began together four years ago is far from over," Trump said of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, according to excerpts published by his team notify.
"We are gathered this afternoon to talk about the future - the future of our movement, the future of our party and the future of our beloved country," he will add.
Trump's tumultuous last week in office resulted in his supporters launching a deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 to prevent Congress from confirming Biden's election victory. A victory that Trump falsely claimed was marred by widespread fraud.
A civil war has broken out within the Republican Party in which establishment figures like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are desperate to put Trump in the rearview mirror, and others like Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham believe the party's future is from the power of the party depends on Trump's conservative base.
"The Republican Party agrees. The only separation is between a handful of political hacks by the Washington DC establishment and everyone else across the country," Trump will say.
Results of a straw poll of attendees at the CPAC conference showed that Trump showed strong support, with 55 percent saying they would vote for him in the 2024 Republican President nomination race. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis came in second with 21 percent.
Without Trump, DeSantis led the field with 43 percent, other potential Republican candidates had single-digit numbers.
But not everyone supported Trump. A separate question in the poll asked if Trump should run again in 2024 and that produced a mixed result. 68 percent said he should run and 32 percent said he was against it or had no opinion.
"It's hard to get 7 out of 10 to an agreement," pollster Jim McLaughlin told CPAC of the results.
Nevertheless, Trump's passion at the four-day CPAC event was so great that Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. declared it a "T-PAC" and the participants rolled out a gold statue of the former president.
Trump has talked about running for president again privately in 2024, according to advisors, but excerpts from the speech gave no indication of what he could do.
"That will be a decision he'll make later," said Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, to CBS's Face the Nation.
In the short term, he plans to set up a SuperPAC political organization to support candidates who reflect his policies, an adviser said.
Trump's speech will include attacks against Biden to position himself as the new president's main critics, including on immigration and security along the U.S. border with Mexico, and the slow reopening of schools that have closed due to the pandemic.
"We all knew the Biden administration was going to go bad - but none of us imagined how bad it would be or how far it would go," Trump will say. "Joe Biden had the most disastrous first month of a president in modern history."
The Biden White House has made it clear that it will ignore Trump's speech.
"Our focus is certainly not on what President Trump is saying," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters last week.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Mary Milliken, Lisa Shumaker, Heather Timmons, and Diane Craft)
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