Trump returns to CPAC amid doubts about 2024 run: NPR

Trump returns to CPAC amid doubts about 2024 run: NPR

CPAC attendees wait in line to have their books signed by former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson in Dallas on Thursday.

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CPAC attendees wait in line to have their books signed by former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson in Dallas on Thursday.

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Donald Trump’s ongoing legal and political troubles may prove too much for some conservative voters.

During the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas this week, some attendees said all the post-Trump controversy could be responsible for who they think might run against President Joe Biden in 2024.

On Saturday, Trump will shut down CPAC Texas, part of the long-running convention for conservative Republicans who have fully embraced Trumpism over the past few years. Before his closing remarks, some voters said they were still in Trump’s corner but had some concerns about him running for a second term.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses CPAC attendees on Thursday.

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses CPAC attendees on Thursday.

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George Breen, who traveled from Pennsylvania, was selling Swing State Steal board games with a Stop the Steal theme at the convention. He says he’s a staunch conservative who voted for Trump in 2020, and says he appreciates everything Trump has done as president. But Breen says he thinks it’s time for someone else to continue what Trump started.

“I think he tapped into something in the American psyche that wasn’t accepted by either side, but he’s a troubled character,” Breen said. “He’s a difficult person … there’s a lot of little things. He’s very disruptive.”

Hannah Blackburn with Students for Life, an anti-abortion rights group that works with college students, says she thinks media coverage of Trump is largely to blame for that image.

“I see a lot of young people who don’t have a lot of respect for Trump because of the way he carries himself,” he says. “But the way he’s behaving is what we see in the media. It’s easy to make people look bad when all you do is … cut out the good and only show the bad.”

A vendor sits at CPAC with Trump-themed merchandise.

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A vendor sits at CPAC with Trump-themed merchandise.

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There are many conservatives who still think Trump is the Republican Party’s best chance to retake the White House. Catherine White of Grand Prairie, Texas, says Trump has had a bad rap with the press in the past.

“Most of the baggage, he’s already fought for it,” he says. “He’s beaten down and he’s still coming out on top.”

Some Republican voters are willing to vote for someone other than Trump in 2024, the poll suggests. New York Times/Siena College survey from Julynearly half of Republicans polled would support another candidate. However, Trump has the most support among these voters of any single candidate at 49%. Florida Gov. Ron Desantis came in second, but managed to garner only half of Trump’s 25% support level.

A CPAC attendee holds a heart-shaped wallet with “Trump” written on it.

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A CPAC attendee holds a heart-shaped wallet with “Trump” written on it.

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Cassiopeia Fletcher of Nebraska says she is upset that Trump is running for president again.

“There are some days I think it’s going to be great and other days it’s time to move on,” he said.

At this point, Fletcher says it depends on who is running. So far his advantage: Desantis.

“It has all of Donald Trump’s bulldogs,” he says. “Without attacking.”

This summer, former members of the Trump White House testified before Congress about Trump’s efforts to derail the 2020 election, which culminated in a rebellion in the US Congress on January 6, 2021.

Former White House staffers have told lawmakers that Trump played a key role in spreading the false narrative to the American people that the 2020 election was stolen from him and even wanted to march on the Capitol with supporters he knew were armed. Whether the Justice Department will indict Trump for trying to overturn the election is still an open question.

Another open question: Will Trump announce his candidacy before or after this fall’s midterm elections.

Blackburn says he worries about whether conservatives will throw their full weight behind Trump or support another candidate, particularly Ron Desantis. The Republican governor of Florida did not appear at CPAC Texas, but was frequently mentioned by CPAC attendees as a possible alternative to Trump.

“It’s a difficult thing,” he says. “I have great respect for both of them.”

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