The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) kicks off Thursday, featuring a slew of Republicans who are eyed as potential 2024 presidential contenders and who will seek to make their appeals to the base — but none will command as much attention as former President Donald Trump.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, along with Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Ted Cruz, R-Texas and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., will all be in attendance in Orlando, Fla. Their speeches will be closely watched for any early signs they might run in 2024.
But any potential 2024 run for those possible contenders may have to compete with Trump, who has flirted with the possibility of running again to retake the White House in 2024 after losing in November to now-President Biden.
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Early polling at this stage suggests Trump would hold a commanding lead over the 2024 field if he decides to run, and even those who have opposed Trump at various stages within his own party concede that he could easily get the nomination again.
“I don’t know if he’ll run in 2024 or not, but if he does I’m pretty sure he will win the nomination,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told The New York Times.
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Trump will address CPAC on Sunday, and it’s expected he will draw the most attention of any speaker. Sources familiar with his speech told Fox News that he will hammer Biden on everything from immigration to China.
The 45th president is expected to go between “warming up to the idea of a 2024 run, and walking right up to the line of announcing another campaign” — though he is not expected to make an actual announcement.
It will be Trump’s first public appearance since leaving office. It is unclear to what extent Trump will relitigate the 2020 election, which he has repeatedly claimed to have won.
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Trump’s speech will be closely watched both for indications of a possible 2024 run — where early polls show him the comfortable front-runner in the Republican primary if he chooses to run again — and also whether he intends to target political opponents within the Republican Party.
A source familiar with Trump’s speech told Fox News last week that Trump will speak about the future of the Republican Party and the conservative movement, as well as Biden’s policies on amnesty and the border.
But the conference will be a sign as to how the presidential primary field may shape up, with speeches closely watched for who is and isn’t well-received by the conservative base, and what issues are discussed.
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So far, Republicans have zeroed in, in particular, on the brewing crisis at the border and efforts to reopen schools after they were shut down in many — but not all — states in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Additionally, how to deal with China, taxation, illegal immigration, crime and energy policy will all be mentioned by speakers in various capacities.
And, as previews of Trump’s speech have indicated, criticism of the Biden administration is expected to be a regular feature of conference speeches.
Fox News’ John Roberts and Tyler Olson contributed to this report.