On Sunday, Donald Trump made his first public appearance since leaving office in January, and he was as “Trumpy” as ever.
In front of adoring fans and supporters at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, the former President riled up the crowd for over an hour with a speech that touched on everything from scathing indictments of the Biden administration to election fraud to whether he’ll start a third party and everything in between.
“The Conservative Political Action Conference is an annual political conference attended by conservative activists and elected officials from across the United States and beyond. CPAC is hosted by the American Conservative Union (ACU).”
“The conference was founded in 1974 by the American Conservative Union and Young Americans for Freedom as a small gathering of dedicated conservatives. Ronald Reagan gave the inaugural keynote speech at CPAC in 1974. Like the conference’s speakers today, the presidential hopeful used it to share his vision for the country—”A Shining City Upon A Hill,” words borrowed from John Winthrop.”
The 45th President’s presence at CPAC was particularly noteworthy since Trump hasn’t spoken publicly since being impeached for the second time. He’s rarely talked at all since the January 6 riot at the Capitol.
Beyond his return into the public eye, Trump’s attendance was meaningful because it set the stage for the next two rounds of elections (2022 midterms and 2024 general election) as well as the foreseeable future of the Republican Party.
He even teased a 2024 presidential run but stopped short of committing to it.
“Who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time,” the former President said coyly, alluding to his claim that the Democrats stole the 2020 election.
If CPAC 2021 made one thing abundantly clear, it’s that the GOP is still very much Donald Trump’s party.
There was even a golden idol – wearing American flag boxer shorts! — made in his image (I think there’s something in the bible about that kind of thing).
His son, Don Jr., summed up the conference’s general themes in an interview with Fox News. Asked about the contents of his father’s upcoming speech, Junior said:
“When I walk around the floor here at CPAC, the amount of love for my father, for his policies [of] putting America first and going to bat for those Americans who have forgotten for far too long, it’s absolutely incredible, so I think you will see talk of that.”
“I think you’re gonna see, you know, talk of this just being a different Republican Party, one that isn’t just into losing while being graciously accepted at the cocktail parties in Washington, DC — that’s what our establishment has done… [Whereas President Trump] told them, ‘You don’t have to do that. You can actually fight for the people.'”
One speaker after another hit the same talking points: a rejection of “cancel culture” and “wokeness,” strong borders, second amendment rights, ending lockdowns/ re-opening schools and businesses, and law and order.
If Donald Trump has taught the Republicans anything, it’s that “owning the libs” and being an opposition party brings out the voters far more effectively than focusing on specific policies and ideologies, which is why the weekend’s speakers also repeatedly paid respects to and acknowledged the former President as the de facto leader of the Republican Party.
“The voters are saying overwhelmingly they agree with what President Trump did in office,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told an interviewer on Sunday.
Missouri Senator Josh Hawley once again demonstrated his strategy of adopting Trump policies, only with a more polished presentation: “We believe in borders, because we believe in citizenship.” Adding: “And we believe in citizenship because we believe in America.”
A recent poll from Rasmussen Reports (conducted between Feb 16 – 17) found that 73% of likely GOP voters said that Republican leadership should behave “more like” Donald Trump.
- 42% of the 1,000 likely voters who responded said that the “recent impeachment proceedings against Trump didn’t make much difference in their opinion of the former president.”
- 28% of all respondents said they “have a better opinion of Trump after his second impeachment!”
- While only 29% said the impeachment made their opinion of him worse.
Another new poll showed former President Trump leading the field of potential 2024 Republican presidential candidates by a sizable margin.
- Donald Trump 53%
- Mike Pence 12%
- Donald Trump Jr. 6%
- Nikki Haley 6%
- Mitt Romney 4%
- Ted Cruz 4%
- Marco Rubio 2%
- Mike Pompeo 2%
- Josh Hawley 1%
- Tom Cotton 1%
- Tim Scott 1%
- Kristi Noem 1%
- Larry Hogan 1%
- Rick Scott 0%
All early data suggests that Trump is a lock for the nomination if he chooses to run again.
What remains to be seen is if he’ll want to launch another campaign in three years or whether he’d prefer to wield his influence from the sidelines as a “kingmaker.” There, he can enjoy all the attention and power of a political party leader without any of the responsibility.
Donald Trump’s Sunday Speech & Related Prop Bets
Donald Trump’s message on Sunday was reminiscent of the speeches he gave back in 2015-16 when he first became a legitimate political contender.
He skewered the Biden administration in a similar fashion as Obama and Hillary Clinton, harped on the “fake news” media, and repeatedly bragged about the many ways in which his term in the White House was “the best ever.”
It was about what you’d expect – with maybe 20% less contrition than some might have hoped following the January 6 situation, but it was otherwise a very “Trumpian” performance.
Thankfully, the oddsmakers at BetOnline offered handicappers — who have been jonesing for action since the election and impeachment trial ended — a handful of options to wager on Trump’s speech.
Non-facts Said by Trump during CPAC speech?
Non-facts said by Trump during CPAC speech?
- Matchup Odds
- Over 35.5 Non-Facts -120
- Under 35.5 Non-Facts -120
“As reported by Washington Post fact-checker blog. If WashPost does not report facts from CPAC speech, then wagers will be graded ‘no action.’”
One prop bet political betting sites love to offer whenever Donald Trump has a major speech scheduled is the over/under on the number of untrue statements he’ll make. We saw similar markets spring up before the Republican National Convention.
The best part about these wagers is that the oddsmakers tend to use fact-checkers from liberal outlets like the NY Times and Washington Post to determine the total, which strongly favors the over. This was the case once again for CPAC; BetOnline used WaPo to count the “non-facts.”
"I may even decide to beat [Democrats] for a third time" — Trump pushes the big lie and gets a standing ovation pic.twitter.com/Lu5umfHHN1
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 28, 2021
It would appear that The Washington Post decided not to fact-check the speech. They supplied the following explanation in another article titled, “Trump falsely claims he ‘requested’ 10,000 troops rejected by Pelosi,” based on a claim the former President made in a February 28 interview on Fox News:
“We’re going to try to have a high bar for fact checks of former president Donald Trump. His speech Sunday to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was mostly a replay of false claims he has said many times before, all documented in our Trump claims database. So we took a pass on that.”
That said, had the paper chosen to fact-check the CPAC speech, this bet would have comfortably covered the over.
Remember, outlets like The Washington Post have always used the least flattering interpretation of everything Trump has said and done, routinely removing all context and nuance to do so. And that’s when he’s mostly telling the truth!
When you factor in the litany of lies the consummate salesman tells whenever he’s performing for his loyal audience, you can count on the “non-facts” to range in the triple-digits.
Over and over again, the former President asserted that the election was rigged, that he built the “greatest economy ever,” and that Operation Warp Speed was “a modern-day medical miracle,” amongst numerous other fantastic claims.
Some points may have been partly valid, but a WaPo fact-checker would never see it that way, and many others were complete hyperbole with little basis in reality.
Percentage of Support Donald Trump will Accrue in 2/28 Poll?
Percentage of votes Trump will accrue in Poll?
- Matchup Odds
- Over 84.5 Percent-160
- Under 84.5 Percent +120
“Straw poll held at end of CPAC on 2/28/21 for 2024 Republican nominee.”
Had I written this article before Sunday, I would have 100% given readers the wrong pick on this bet.
Every year, CPAC conducts a straw poll of attendees to gauge the current mood of GOP loyalists.
While Donald Trump came away from the convention as the most influential person in the Republican Party and conservative voters’ favorite 2024 candidate, he still underperformed my – and many other political pundits’ — lofty expectations.
It’s worth mentioning that the survey was administered between Wednesday through Saturday, so the results don’t include any bump in support Trump may have gained from his speech. However, when it comes to feelings about Donald Trump, very few people haven’t made up their minds already – even fewer are open to having their opinions changed at this point.
Here’s everything we learned about Republican sentiment regarding Donald Trump from the 2021 CPAC straw poll:
- 55% of respondents said they would vote for him in a 2024 primary. (21% said they’d vote for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; 4% picked South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.)
- 15% said they would not vote for Trump in 2024; 17% answered that they were unsure.
- 68% of the poll’s participants said they would like to see Trump run for President in 2024.
- 95% want the GOP to continue Donald Trump’s agenda and policies.
- 3% think the Republican Party should change direction policy-wise; 2% were uncertain.
- The survey also showed a 97% approval rating for the former President’s job performance. 87% “strongly approved.”
The survey also asked CPAC attendees who they’d support for President if Donald Trump decides not to run (or isn’t the candidate for another reason).
- Governor DeSantis won by a large margin at 43%.
- Governor Kristi Noem came in second with 11% of the support.
- Donald Trump Jr. finished at 8%.
- Senator Ted Cruz and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both received 7% of the vote.
Donald Trump might not have come anywhere close to the 84.5% total set for this wager, but the survey results still demonstrate the immense popularity the 45th President of the United States has among conservative voters.
“So again, you see how important to everybody here — the grassroots, the base of the conservative movement, the base of the Republican Party — it is either President Trump or a Trump candidate,” said Jim McLaughlin, the pollster who announced the results at CPAC.
What will Trump say first during CPAC speech?
BetOnline also offered betting odds on the first, out of a range of words, Trump would utter during his CPAC speech. Of the available options, this is how many times he said each word:
- “Stolen” – 0
- “Biden” – 36
- “Future” – 14
- “Fraud” – 2
- “Landside” – 1
As you can see, the most heavily favored term was never said. The next two options, “Biden” and “Future,” were mentioned a combined 50 times!
“Future” at +175 odds was said first.
In the opening paragraph of the speech (pulled from a full transcript), Trump said:
“As we gather this week, we’re in the middle of a historic struggle for America’s future, America’s culture and America’s institutions, borders, and most cherished principles. Our security, our prosperity, and our very identity as Americans is at stake, like perhaps at no other time.”
While he eluded to the current administration several times prior, the former President didn’t say Biden’s name until roughly seven minutes into the speech:
“We will fight the onslaught of radicalism, socialism, and indeed it all leads to communism once and for all. That’s what it leads to. You’ll be hearing more and more about that as we go along, but that’s what it leads to. You know that. We all knew that the Biden administration was going to be bad, but none of us even imagined just how bad they would be and how far left they would go.”
A Preview of Future Elections
Now that CPAC is over, it’s time to use what was learned from last weekend’s events to forecast the future. Political betting sites will be taking tons of action during the 2022 midterms and beyond. In 2018, the top political oddsmakers set odds on nearly every congressional race.
Here are a few developments worth noting coming out of CPAC 2021:
No Third Party for Trump
Donald Trump made sure to put an end to the rumors about him possibly starting a third party. He said:
“They keep saying, ‘he’s going to start a brand-new party.’ We have the Republican Party…I am not starting a new party.”
“Wouldn’t that be brilliant? Let’s start a new party and let’s divide our vote so that you can never win. No, we’re not interested in that,” he continued.
Plus, all signs point to the GOP being Trump’s party. There’s no incentive for him to leave.
If anyone starts a new party, it will be the centrist/moderate conservatives who joined the “Never Trump” movement last election.
Trump’s 2022 Endorsement Plans
Trump also hinted at how he’ll use his influence over GOP voters to unseat Republicans who are up for reelection. During the speech, he publicly targeted his GOP critics, name-checking senators:
- Mitt Romney,
- Ben Sasse,
- Richard Burr,
- Bill Cassidy,
- Susan Collins,
- Lisa Murkowski, and
- Pat Toomey;
- Tom Rice,
- Adam Kinzinger,
- Dan Newhouse,
- Anthony Gonzalez,
- Fred Upton,
- Jamie Herrera Butler,
- Peter Meyer,
- John Katko, and
- David Valadao.
If they supported Trump’s impeachment, he made sure the adoring supporters at CPAC heard their names. However, the political rival to whom he dedicated the most time and attention was House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney.
“And the warmonger, the person who loves seeing our troops fighting, Liz Cheney,” Trump said.
“The good news is in her state, she’s been censured. And in her state, her poll numbers have dropped faster than any human being I’ve ever seen. So hopefully, they’ll get rid of her with the next election. Get rid of them all.”
2024 Republican Primaries and General Election
Following CPAC, the odds for the 2024 Republican primary winner and general election changed to reflect the latest polls. Here are the updated betting lines from Bovada:
2024 GOP Primary
2024 Presidential Election (Top Republicans Only)