Feb 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

In CPAC speech, Trump says he won't start a 3rd party

Trump speaks at CPAC
Trump at CPAC on Feb. 28 in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Courtesy of C-SPAN.

In his first public speech since leaving office, former President Trump told the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that he would not start a third party because "we have the Republican party."

Why it matters: The former president aims to cement himself as Republicans' "presumptive 2024 nominee" as his top contenders — including former members of his administration — face the challenge of running against the GOP's most popular politician.

  • Trump made clear that he isn't going anywhere and treated his CPAC speech like one of his MAGA rallies, bouncing around on topics, bashing political opponents, and listing long-held grievances.
  • After predicting that President Biden would "lose the White House decisively four years from now," Trump said he might run again in 2024, while repeating the false claim that he won the 2020 election: "Actually, as you know, they just lost the White House. Who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time, okay?"
  • "This election was rigged," Trump falsely claimed, before calling for heavy restrictions on mail-in and absentee voting.
  • No longer able to do so on Twitter, Trump spent a good portion of his speech sowing doubt about election and stoking the same anger among his base that led to the violence at the Capitol on 1/6.

What to watch: 2024 contenders like Mike Pompeo, Nikki Haley, and Mike Pence — two of whom skipped CPAC this year — will need to throw their hat in the ring earlier than their potential challengers who are in office.

  • The former Trump administration officials no longer have the public platform needed to stay relevant on a day-to-day basis.

Trump's derisive language and refusal to take a back seat is also further contributing to the factions we're seeing take shape within the GOP.

  • Mitch McConnell had to eat crow after taking a beating from Trump following his scathing remarks about the former president's role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The minority leader said he would "absolutely" support Trump if he were the 2024 Republican nominee.
  • Mitt Romney, arguably Trump's biggest GOP detractor in Congress, said this week that Trump would probably win the 2024 nomination if he ran.
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