Well, that was fantastic. America’s real president capped off CPAC 2023 with one of his trademarked off-the-cuff 2-hour speeches. One thing that was instantly recognizable from the speech was the fact that this is the very best version of Donald Trump.
When he’s in Mar a Lago surrounded by his advisers and consultants and partially under their control, he’s kind of dull (just being honest).
When Trump is on the road and conducting his epic, marathon rallies in front of many thousands of people is when he always performs best. The fact that he’s running away with many additional polls since Saturday proves this.
Trump ran away with the CPAC Straw Poll, pulling in 62% of the vote. Ron DeSantis was a distant second at 20%. The big surprise from this poll was the third-place finisher. A mostly unknown businessman from Michigan named Perry Johnson came from out of nowhere to place third, with 5% of the vote.
He hilariously beat Nikki Haley, who pulled in 3%, along with one-percenter Mike Pence. Fox News and other outlets tried to ignore Johnson’s third-place finish, by claiming Nikki Haley came in third.
Most of us were unaware of Johnson’s existence or the fact that he was running for president until he gave a speech at CPAC. Apparently, Johnson is a billionaire and he ran an ad during the Super Bowl announcing his campaign. I haven’t watched a single NFL game since the league decided to spit on the American flag and the national anthem, so I missed it.
Johnson seems like a nice enough guy, but there’s no reason to take him very seriously. We’ve always had these gimmick candidates in the GOP, who usually have one good idea that voters will latch onto. They usually fizzle out once they make it onto the debate stage and they don’t have any tricks in their bag other than that one good idea. Remember Steve Forbes and his flat tax plan from the 2000 election?
It’s good to have candidates like Johnson in the race, though, because his one gimmick is cutting the federal budget. He’ll talk about it anytime he gets near a microphone, and that will keep budget-cutting in the public’s conscience and force the other candidates to talk about it.
Maryland Governor and Professional RINO Larry Hogan aborted his presidential ambitions right around the time that Trump won the CPAC Straw Poll. Hogan announced that he’s definitely not running, which surely disappointed tens of voters. Personally, I kind of wish he had run. The more the merrier, and the more for Trump to mow down on the debate stage for sheer entertainment value like he did last time.
YouGov issued poll results on Monday morning which were very close to the CPAC results, only with Trump winning a larger margin – especially among Hispanic voters. Trump pulled in 67% compared to DeSantis with 20%, in a straight head-to-head matchup with no one else in the race. 2 out of 3 Hispanic voters want Trump back in office as soon as possible.
As usual, I have to add the caveat at this point. None of this is being pointed out to disparage Ron DeSantis. He is almost universally liked by GOP voters, because he’s done such an amazing job of governing Florida. Even people who voted against him in the CPAC Straw Poll noted that they like DeSantis.
But this is Trump’s comeback election. We all know Trump’s proven track record at the national level. If DeSantis takes the bait from the donors and consultants surrounding him, it will be one of the first mistakes of his political career. When you’re trailing by margins as wide as DeSantis is, you don’t run. You just don’t. You’re not going to pull out a come-from-behind victory when you are that far behind in multiple polls.
It now feels as though Trump’s campaign has reached liftoff speed after that CPAC speech. He had the energy and vigor we’ve always seen from him in the past. He didn’t focus on the 2020 election directly, but did express sympathy for the January 6 political prisoners in the DC jail, who have been held for years now without trial. Trump riffed on Joe Biden, the economy, the stupid Ukraine war, China, trade deals and all the usual big-ticket items.
He looks fresh and ready to go, and again – the Donald Trump that we get on the campaign trail is definitely the best version of Trump.