OXON HILL (USA) , March 5 (AP) – Former U.S. President Donald Trump said Saturday he will continue his third presidential campaign even if indicted.
“Of course, I wouldn’t even think about leaving,” Trump told reporters before speaking at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
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Trump is being investigated by prosecutors looking into his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election and his handling of classified documents, among other issues.
In his key address at the conference Saturday night, Trump told cheering supporters that he was fighting “the final battle” as he tries to return to the White House.
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“We’re going to finish what we started,” he said. “We’re going to get the job done. We’re going to see this battle finally won.”
While CPAC was once a must-stop for candidates considering a Republican presidential bid, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, seen as Trump’s biggest potential challenger, and other leading likely contenders skipped amid the scandal. This year’s gathering, and as the group increasingly aligns itself with Trump.
The former president’s enduring popularity with this segment of voters was evident throughout the session this week. Some attendees wore Trump-themed attire, with “MAGA” hats and sequined jackets. Potential and announced candidates who did not nominate Trump received only tepid applause.
The annual CPAC Ad Hoc Poll, an unscientific poll of attendees, found Trump was the party’s top nominee at 62 percent, behind DeSantis at 20 percent and Businessman Perry Johnson announced his odds of winning the race were slim at 5 percent.
Nearly all — 95 percent — said they approved of Trump’s performance as president.
“This is an audience that supports President Trump,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., the No. 3 House Republican, on the occasion of Trump’s formal launch of her 2024 campaign. Supported him the other day.
Stefanik, the only member of the House leadership in attendance, told The Associated Press that Trump remains the party’s leader.
“President Trump is in a very strong position and I think he’s going to be the Republican nominee,” she said.
As his potential White House challenger pitched himself to conservative donors near his Florida home, Trump repeatedly criticized the Republican establishment in speeches eager to outdo the former president.
“We have a Republican Party ruled by Freaks, Neocons, Globalists, Open Borders Zealots and Idiots. But we will never go back to the party of Paul Ryan, Karl Rove and Jeb Bush, “He said.
He also took a backhanded shot at DeSantis, pointing to those who proposed raising the Social Security age or privatizing Medicare — positions DeSantis has expressed support for in the past but has since dropped. “We’re not going to disrupt Social Security the way the Republicans are,” DeSantis said recently.
Trump told the crowd, “If that’s what they thought in the first place, they’re always going to come back.”
While many senior Republicans avoided the meeting, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley both spoke on Friday and offered veiled jabs at Trump. Haley has announced her candidacy, but Pompeo has yet to make a formal announcement. They declined to call him by first name, underscoring the risks for challengers seeking to offer an alternative in Trump’s still-dominant party.
“I hope no one in that field is my president other than Donald J. Trump,” said Waverly Woods, a Republican activist and marketer from Virginia Beach, Va. She said she liked DeSantis , but Trump first asked for many at the meeting.
They include Kim Shourds, Woods’ sometimes partner in local Republican races, whose car has “TRUMP WON” plates.
DeSantis? She said she liked him, but not enough. She wants the governor to sit down “and let my people come in and run this country,” Shourds said.
But not everyone at CPAC is involved.
E Payne Kilbourn, a retired Navy submarine captain from Nevett, Maryland, who now writes for and advocates for CO2, said he was “very, very” happy with Trump’s presidency but now believes it’s time for the party to continue moved on.
“I think Donald Trump is too toxic for most of the country,” said Kilburn, 69, an independent who voted Republican in the general election and hopes Trump will “Exit and be the one behind the scenes”.
Strategically, he sees DeSantis as better equipped to ultimately win the White House. “I think he would have a better chance of getting elected,” he said. (AP)
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the body of content may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)