Trump to cement grip on Republican party by addressing key conservative event

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David Millward
·4 min read
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Donald Trump - Al Drago/Getty
Donald Trump - Al Drago/Getty

Donald Trump will move to tighten his grip on the Republican party by addressing the flagship event of the conservative calendar next weekend.

Mr Trump will be one of the speakers at the Conservative Public Action Conference in Orlando, Florida in what will be his first public appearance since his speech to supporters ahead of the January 6 Capitol riot.

The conference, known as CPAC, is arguably the most significant event in the Republican calendar. Even this far ahead of the 2024 election, it is a place for aspirants to make their mark on the party faithful.

Mr Trump, who is widely expected to run again in 2024, has already amassed a $31 million war chest via his newly-established Political Action Committee, Save America.

The event will also give Mr Trump, who has been banned from a raft of social media websites including his beloved Twitter, a high-profile platform.

He has already reportedly met his former campaign manager, Brad Parscale, to discuss how he can step up his fundraising and reach supporters.

Since leaving the White House Mr Trump has held court at Mar a Lago, his resort in Florida. Visitors have included Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House and Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator who has emerged as one of his strongest allies in Washington.

Significantly Rona McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee is due at Mar a Lago this week, even though she has pledged to be neutral on the race for the party's 2024 nomination.

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In the short term, the focus will be on the mid-term elections. Mr Trump is expected to attend a fundraising dinner for Utah senator, Mike Lee where the guest list includes some of the most controversial and abrasive members of congress Matt Gaetz of Florida and Lauren Bobert of Colorado.

Mr Gaetz has already made his mark in recent weeks by travelling nearly 1,600 miles to campaign against Liz Cheney, theoretically a party colleague, in her home state of Wyoming after she voted in favour of Mr Trump's impeachment.

Ms Cheney is reportedly in Mr Trump's sights as he vowed to back the primary campaigns of Republicans ready to challenge incumbents who he regards as political foes.

There is a growing belief that Mr Trump will target Brian Kemp, Georgia's governor who faces re-election next year, who aroused the presidential ire for refusing to back a challenge to Joe Biden's victory in the state.

Mr Trump's supporters, including former White House aide, Sebastian Gorka, said his position had strengthened following the failed attempt to impeach him.

"President Trump had an unsure future subsequent to the attack on Congress January 6th. But that all changed with the disgraceful sham repeat Impeachment Trial that collapsed last weekend," he told the Telegraph.

"The fact that he will be addressing CPAC, the biggest Conservative convocation of the year is proof of that. This confirms that he remains the most powerful and significant figure in right-wing politics."

Senior Republicans fear that the widening rift between Mr Trump's supporters and his opponents within the party could cost the party dear in the mid-terms.

“I’m more worried about 2022 than I’ve ever been. I don’t want to eat our own,” Lindsey Graham said.

But there is little doubt that the battle lines are being drawn. Former vice president Mike Pence, who was attacked by Mr Trump on Twitter as he was being led to safety on Jan 6, will not be attending the CPAC conference.

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Mr Trump reportedly refused a Mar a Lago meeting with Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor, who served as his ambassador to the United Nations, after she told the Politico website that the former president had lost "any sort of political viability he was going to have."

Other Republicans, however, have refused to be cowed by Mr Trump with former Texas congressman, Will Hurd, blaming him for costing the party dear last November.

"This is a president that lost the House, the Senate, the White House in four years," he said on NBC's Meet the Press.

"I think the last person to do that was Herbert Hoover, and that was during the Great Depression."