Former President Donald Trump insisted on Saturday that his former secretary of state was not going after him when Mike Pompeo warned conservatives against “famous leaders”.
Trump told DailyMail.com he was a president who got things done during his four-year term.
“I don’t think of myself as a famous leader of the country…I don’t think of myself as a celebrity,” he said before delivering the keynote address for the Conservative Political Action Conference.
This is Trump territory, a gathering of MAGA devotees. But he was criticized by two of his likely rivals for the Republican nomination.
Pompeo, one of his secretaries of state, called on the Republican Party not to follow “famous leaders” with “fragile egos who refuse to acknowledge reality” in a Friday speech.
Former President Donald Trump insisted on Saturday that his former secretary of state was not going after him when Mike Pompeo warned conservatives against ‘famous leaders’
Trump avoided criticizing his choice of words.
He admitted his celebrity status may have helped him get elected in 2016
“I consider myself a person who was president for four years and we had a record job in the business world,” he said.
“We had the strongest economy in history, and I really did it twice because then we got hit by the Chinese virus and I had to rebuild it again. And I gave up on a stock market that was higher than just before the virus hit.
‘So no… I can’t imagine he was talking about me.
He also faced batting from Nikki Haley, who unlike Pompeo has already declared her candidacy, repeated her call for candidates over 75 to take a mental capacity test.
While CPAC has been characterized as less energetic this year, with rows of seats left empty for several sessions on Friday, Trump will at least know his grip is tighter than ever on a key part of his base.
Merchandise stalls tell the story. Row after row after row of hats proclaim “Women for Trump”, “Trump 2024” and “God, Guns and Trump”.
Donald Trump dominated the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Maryland before he even spoke on Saturday
Trump had fallen behind Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in some recent polls, but reopened a lead this week according to a Yahoo News/YouGov survey released Tuesday.
In 26th place is the Ron DeSantis selection. Two visors and four hats with “DeSantisland: Make America Florida” logos.
“Everyone is entitled to their point of view,” says Caroline Hesse, who runs the booth, “but I think DeSantis is more on the RINO side of things,” using a favorite Trump phrase for Republicans in Name Only .
DeSantis isn’t even running yet but is frequently cited as the candidate most likely to give Trump a fight for the Republican nomination.
When CPAC convened in Orlando last year due to tighter COVID restrictions at its usual home in Maryland, the domestic territory meant the Florida governor’s supporters were plentiful.
He even won 28% of the vote during the conference’s presidential nomination straw.
And when the organization gathered in Dallas last summer, there were signs that the MAGA world might be ready for a young generation of leaders in the form of DeSantis.
With CPAC back at its usual home just outside of Washington DC, Trump’s grip was back.
Allies such as his former strategist Steve Bannon and the “Godzilla of Truth” John Fredericks broadcast from the halls of the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center.
Seats are left empty during the speech of former South Carolina governor and 2024 Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley
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
Supporters can purchase a ‘Ginger Donald’ cookie. But there was no DeSantis equivalent
MyPillow founder turned election denier and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell posed for photos with young men dressed in Trump uniforms or navy blue suits, white shirts and red ties .
“See, it’s 100% behind Trump,” he told DailyMail.com. “Ron DeSantis is the Trojan Horse of the Republican Party. He is awful.
For Lindell, the Florida governor’s crime was to meet with an attorney from Dominion Voting Systems, the company that is now suing for defamation after pushing false allegations that its technology was to blame for rigging the election results.
He can have his own ax to grind. But Trump has had a bump in recent polls after DeSantis appeared to eat away at his frontrunner status, not even showing up yet.
A Yahoo News/YouGov poll released Tuesday gave Trump an eight-point lead over the governor of Florida. DeSantis had been ahead of Trump in that poll for three months.
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was among former Trump administration staffers who drew crowds to CPAC this week
Donald Trump Jr. was another crowd favorite delivering a speech to attendees
Trump still retains a strong grip on the Republican base, at least among CPAC attendees
Melissa Cornwell, resplendent in a red sequin jacket and a yellow t-shirt emblazoned with the letter U (spelling TRUMP when standing with her fellow Trump Tribe members), never doubted.
“He accomplished almost everything he set out to do, and we need him to finish the job,” she said. “Yes, he’s not a politician, but that means he’s not afraid to tell the truth.”
But unlike some of the other attendees, she sees a future star in DeSantis.
“We would like to see him vice president to Donald Trump and then president for the next eight years,” she said.
“We think he has a lot of growth ahead of him. And when he becomes his, he has to be unstoppable.
Without Trump, there were plenty of empty seats at CPAC on Friday afternoon
Trump loyalist representative Matt Gaetz was among the speakers on Friday morning (seen here with Don Jr), a day before Trump closed the conference with a speech on Saturday evening
Former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer was another speaker Friday at CPAC
Trump’s image is used to sell everything from T-shirts to cigars in this case
DeSantis does not speak to CPAC. Nor are there any other potential rivals for the nomination, such as Mike Pence. Trump allies say that means they’re not fooled.
“I’m not at CPAC, I’m at TPAC,” said Fredericks, Trump’s ally radio host. “The Trump movement has taken over CPAC.
“The neo-conservatives, warmongers, establishment Republicans and other RINOS who destroyed the country and are bringing us to war…they’re not going to show up here.”
They may not be here. But members of the Trump administration are out in force.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Spokesman Hogan Gidley, Councilor Sebastian Gorka, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson are treated like rock stars, posing for selfies and triggering screams as you go.
The same goes for members of the Trump family, including his son Don Jr. and stepdaughter Lara.
Back in the exhibit hall, there isn’t much love for DeSantis.
“He can wait his turn,” said Sany, who runs USATrumpStore.com with her jeweled handgun-shaped handbags and Trump shopping bags.
She described herself as a MAGA Republican and said she would not run in the next election if DeSantis won the nomination.
“If it’s anyone other than Trump, I won’t vote,” she said. “That’s how much I hate the Republican Party.”