It is received in leader undisputed by a public conquered by ultra-conservatives that Donald Trump will speak on Sunday for the first time since he left the White House. But since the murderous assault on Capitol Hill, the Republican Party has displayed gaping divisions.
Among the participants of the CPAC, the high mass of American conservatives which opens Friday, and across the United States, the same question resonates: will the billionaire announce that he is running again in 2024?
Undoubtedly not directly, said the organizers, but the tribune should well flirt openly with this idea, Sunday afternoon in Orlando, Florida.
For his first speech since January 20, the former president will talk about “the future of the Republican party and the conservative movement”, his entourage told AFP.
The former president should also speak of immigration and “disastrous policies” of his Democratic successor Joe Biden on this issue, according to the same source.
After four years in Trump’s tenure, Republicans lost control of Congress and the White House. And he’s a former president marked with the infamous stain of indictment (impeachment) for inciting insurgency in the attack on the Capitol which will take the stage.
However, his popularity remains immense in his camp.
Despite scathing criticism from some big names in the party, three quarters of Republican voters said in mid-February that they wanted the tempestuous Republican to continue to play “a leading role,” according to a Quinnipiac poll.
“President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party”: summed up this week one of his great allies in Congress, Republican House politician Jim Jordan.
“If we manage to rally behind President Trump, we will win in 2022”, in the next parliamentary election, added another great believer, Senator Lindsey Graham on Fox News. “If we argue, we will lose.”
The divisions are however already there, and are exposed sometimes spectacularly as between the Republican leaders of the House, this week.
Should Donald Trump speak to CPAC? “Yes,” Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters on Wednesday, without hesitation.
Behind him, Liz Cheney, spokesperson for Republicans anti-Trump since his vote in favor of the impeachment of the billionaire, blurted out: “I don’t think he should play a role in the future of our party, or country ”.
After a heavy silence, Mr. McCarthy ended the conference with embarrassed laughter. And each went his own way.
Ten Republicans, out of 211 sitting in the House, voted with Democrats impeachment of Donald Trump, accused of having encouraged his supporters to storm the Capitol on January 6.
The ex-president was finally acquitted during his trial in the Senate in mid-February. Historically, seven Republicans nevertheless voted in favor of his conviction.
But even among his biggest critics, we remain aware of his electoral strength.
Like Mitt Romney. If the ex-president is represented in 2024, “I am quite convinced that he will win the nomination of the party,” the Republican senator told the New York Times DealBook DC Policy Project on Tuesday.
Donald Trump’s bête noire, the latter was not invited to CPAC. Neither did Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who declared the billionaire “responsible” for the attack on the seat of Congress. As for his former vice-president Mike Pence, he declined the invitation.
“There is a disconnect between the Republican Party in Washington and the grassroots, still loyal to Trump,” John Feehery, a former communicator for senior Republican Congressmen, now a lobbyist, told AFP.
Other Republicans could of course run in 2024, such as Senators Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem or ex-UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.
“But Trump has the most powerful megaphone and the broadest base of support” today, he said.
The Grand Old Party is “deeply divided,” adds Whit Ayres, Republican consultant and president of North Star Opinion Research.
But unless he leaves politics, Donald Trump will still dominate the party in 2024, predicts John Pitney Jr, professor of American politics at Claremont McKenna College.
“The supporters of President Trump are far more numerous than his critics within the party,” he insists.
“Republicans know that breaking up with Trump comes at a political cost and most are not prepared to pay that price.”