He is the latest senior conservative to call on Republicans to beat Democrats at their own game after disappointing midterm results in November.
After weeks of signs that his stance was softening, reversing the course of the president who once condemned mail-in ballots and drop boxes, he said: ‘Until we can eliminate the harvest of ballots, we will become the masters of ballot harvesting.
“We have no choice…beat the Democrats at their own game.”
His hour and 45-minute speech hit all the usual notes, with a recap of the greatest hits, including the attacks on Joe Biden and his withdrawal from Afghanistan, to promises that he would quickly end the war in Ukraine upon taking office.
After weeks of signs that his stance was softening, reversing the course of the president who once warned against early voting, Donald Trump said on Saturday: “Until we can eliminate the ballot harvest vote, we will become the masters of the harvesting of ballot papers.”
But he made headlines at the end of his speech to supporters at the Conservative Political Action Conference, held just outside Washington, DC.
Although he said postal votes should be reserved for people who are legitimately ill or overseas on military service, he said there was little immediate prospect for an immediate tightening of controls.
“But until that day, Republicans must compete using any legal means to win. It means overwhelming the left with melon votes, early votes and Election Day votes,” he said.
“We have to change our way of thinking.”
If people like Mark Zuckerberg were funding projects to encourage voting, then Republicans need to do the same.
“Where we can’t get rid of drop boxes, we need them in every church,” he said.
It comes after rivals such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said the party shot itself in the foot by being too focused on Election Day turnout. .
It wasn’t until December that Trump told Breitbart News that “a mail-in ballot will always be corrupt” and that Republicans should seek to change the laws.
“I am your warrior, I am your justice, and for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution,” he told the cheering crowd.
Supporters, including a man who dresses as Trump’s border wall, cheered on the ex-president Saturday on CPAC during his hour-and-45-minute speech
Trump’s control over the CPAC movement was demonstrated with the release of the results of his straw poll asking who participants would like to see as a Republican nominee.
The Conservative Political Action Conference held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center is Trump territory, a gathering of MAGA faithful
And he was blamed in January 2021 for his loss in Georgia’s Senate runoff when his repeated attacks on voting systems may have deterred some Republicans from running.
But much of his speech was devoted to demonstrating his continued grip on the GOP.
He slammed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as a ‘China-loving politician’, got the crowd to boo Senator Mitt Romney and attacked Senate Republicans who dared to suggest that the social security and health insurance would be abolished.
‘We will never go back to the party of Paul Ryan, Karl Rove and Jeb Bush,’ Trump proclaimed from the ballroom stage – shortly after decisively winning the CPAC straw poll, with 62% of the vote. conference attendees polled saying they wanted him to be the 2024 GOP nominee.
In 2016, I declared that I am your voice. Today, I add, I am your warrior, I am your justice, and for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution,” he told the cheering crowd.
Former President Donald Trump returned to the Conservative Political Action Conference stage on Saturday to leave no doubt that he owns the modern GOP
Trump slammed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling him a ‘China-loving politician’, got the crowd to boo Senator Mitt Romney and clashed with Republicans in the Senate who dared to suggest that Social Security and health insurance would be abolished
He also had plenty of negative things to say about Democrats — including mocking President Joe Biden for falling off his bike and tripping on the stairs of Air Force One — but told the crowd the Republican Party was previously run by “monsters” and “neoconservatives”.
At one point, Trump’s speech was interrupted by a protester who played the song FDT (F**k Donald Trump) out loud.
Trump received first place at the three-and-a-half-day conference that returned to suburban Washington after being held for two years in Florida amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before Trump arrived, the crowd was entertained by the ex-president’s 2020 playlist which included YMCA and Gloria.
And his speech touched on many of the same themes from his 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns.
Trump hit President Joe Biden hard on illegal immigration.
“Illegal immigrants arrive and we house them at the Waldorf Astoria. But our soldiers, we didn’t do anything for them,’ Trump complained, suggesting that illegal immigrants were watching his speech on TV from their ‘beautiful hotel suites’.
Trump threw a long riff at the president and his son Hunter.
‘Hunter Biden is a criminal and nothing happened to him,’ the ex-president said. “Joe Biden is a criminal and nothing ever seems to happen to him.”
CPAC audience members hold up a ‘Thank you Trump’ banner as the former president speaks Saturday night
Trump is shown on one of the jumbotrons at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland during his speech at CPAC
Trump is still the most lucrative figure for sellers. Only a handful of DeSantis hats were on display among the dozens and dozens of Trump-branded headwear
Trump, again, took on Black Lives Matter and called for the preservation of Confederate monuments, saying ‘the most beautiful works of art, the most beautiful statues were desecrated.
The 2024 hopeful teased that he will lay out his agenda for his current presidential campaign.
“At the top of my list will be the slide into costly and endless wars,” he said afterwards, an idea he has long espoused.
Trump boasted that a new war had not started during his four years in office.
“I was also the only president where Russia didn’t take over a country during my tenure,” he boasted. “Because I got along very well with Vladimir Putin. I said “Vladimir, don’t do it, you know you and I are friends, don’t take over any country, because, you know, Moscow will be hit very hard.”
On the war in Ukraine, Trump complained that NATO was not paying its fair share.
And he hit out at Biden for his withdrawal from Afghanistan, something that was negotiated during Trump’s tenure.
“No, we left the dogs behind and the Taliban don’t like dogs. But we left in disgrace. And it was probably the most embarrassing moment in the history of our country.
Trump then declared that he would prevent World War III.
“Even before I get to the Oval Office, I will have settled the disastrous war between Russia and Ukraine, it will be settled quickly,” he said.
This year’s CPAC speakers spent hours discussing trans people and Trump threw red meat at the crowd.
“I will revoke all of Biden’s policies promote chemical castration and sexual mutualization of our youth. And ask Congress to send me a bill banning female genital mutilation, in all 50 states,” he said.
“And will drive men away from women’s sports,” added the former president.
Trump again said he would support term limits for members of Congress, which he had previously proposed.
And he continued to support elections conducted only with paper ballots, with rare exceptions granted to people wishing to vote by mail.
That being said, he encouraged Republicans to use all means to vote, after the party lost the White House in 2020 and had a disappointing midterm result in 2022.
“Republicans must compete using all legal means to win. It means overwhelming the left with mail-in votes, early votes and Election Day votes,’ Trump said. “We have to change our way of thinking.”