Former President Donald Trump is scheduled to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) with a headline keynote address Sunday afternoon, his first public appearance since leaving office last month.
The four-day conference, organized and sponsored by the American Conservative Union (ACU), kicks off Thursday evening and is the largest annual gathering of conservatives in the nation. But all eyes will be on the former president this year as the GOP faces a crisis of identity and reckons with a unified Democratic government in Washington led by President Joe Biden.
Trump is expected to speak about the future of the GOP and hammer the Biden administration, which has already reversed a number of Trump-era policies, sources familiar with the speech told Fox News. (RELATED: 3 Key Parts Of Biden’s Plan To Reverse Hallmark Trump-Era Policies)
Trump has a unique opportunity to save the GOP and rally his supporters against the Democrats. In such a crucial moment for Republicans, the former president could lay the groundwork for a comeback not seen since the Gingrich Revolution of 1994.
But the conference will also feature several panels on the topic of election fraud and the former president’s legal challenges contesting the 2020 election results. Grievances about November’s election have been a recurring theme in pro-Trump circles and polling data indicates an overwhelming majority of Republican voters believe the election was stolen.
Although other events at this week’s conference will touch on the past election and allegations of widespread voter fraud, Trump could have a great impact by instead promoting the most successful messages of his original campaign and presidency — working to unite a fractured GOP — rather than buckling down on election fraud claims.
An Echelon Insights poll released this week found that Republican voters are most concerned about immigration and law enforcement issues. Among those polled, 82% said they are “extremely” or “very concerned” about illegal immigration and 79% said the same about lack of support for police. Additionally, 74% of respondents said they are “extremely” or “very concerned” about the country’s moral decline and 70% said the same about China.
Republican voters ranked election fraud lower by comparison, with 64% of respondents saying they were “extremely” or “very concerned” about the issue.
Of the issues we asked ONLY of Republicans, illegal immigration, lack of support for police, taxes and liberal media bias are the top concerns. pic.twitter.com/Xaudn3dDUT
— Kristen Soltis Anderson (@KSoltisAnderson) February 24, 2021
In an encouraging sign, sources familiar with the matter told Fox News that Trump’s speech will focus on many of the same issues Republican voters are most concerned about. (RELATED: ‘He Did Tell You So’: Lara Trump Says Donald Trump’s CPAC Speech Will Be About How He Warned America About Joe Biden)
Immigration is one of the major themes Trump is expected to speak about at CPAC. The issue played a central role in both his original 2016 campaign and throughout his presidency, with an ambitious agenda that included proposals to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall and create a merit-based immigration system.
Biden has moved quickly to dismantle Trump administration policies on immigration. The current president halted construction of the border wall, ended a travel ban targeting several high-risk countries, reaffirmed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and took steps to loosen asylum rules.
House Republicans sent a letter to the president Monday warning that his “far-left” immigration agenda is creating a new crisis on the southern border amid a surge in migrants, Fox News reported.
China is expected to be another theme Trump will cover during his speech Sunday. His administration shattered a longstanding establishment consensus on the communist adversary by imposing sanctions on Chinese Communist Party officials for actions in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, enacting import tariffs on consumer goods from China and emphasizing “great power competition.”
Republicans have long accused Biden of being soft on China due to his past remarks and support for matters like China’s entry into the World Trade Organization. The president has recently used tougher rhetoric against Beijing but several of his top nominees are under scrutiny for their ties to China.
Leaning in on a message of “law and order” could also resonate with attendees, given that Trump consistently supported law enforcement and the military during his presidency.
Biden signed an executive order Wednesday revoking a Trump administration memo that referred to liberal cities like Portland and Seattle as “lawless zones” during last year’s George Floyd riots and threatened to cut federal funding to cities that “permit anarchy, violence and destruction.
Trump was also well received by his supporters for an economic policy that produced significant economic gains prior to the coronavirus. As Biden signs off on climate regulations that experts say would kill thousands of jobs, and the “woke” capitalists on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley gain even more power, Trump could advocate for an economic populist and pro-worker agenda.
But perhaps the most potent issue Trump could focus on in Sunday’s speech is the culture war. Polling data last month found that his supporters are most united in their opposition to cultural progressivism. (RELATED: What The Future Of The GOP Looks Like, According To The Polls)
In a time of rampant “cancel culture” and leftist identity politics fueled by pseudo-intellectual ideas like critical race theory, Trump could most effectively energize his supporters by slamming Democrats for their hard left turn on social issues.
Trump may also seek to promote a united front against the Biden agenda. There are clear signs the GOP is fracturing in the post-Trump era. One example of this was when two top House Republicans butted heads at a press conference Wednesday.
Q: Do you believe former President Trump should speaking at CPAC?@GOPLeader: “Yes he should.”@RepLizCheney: “That’s up to CPAC….I don’t believe that he should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country.”
McCarthy: “On that high note, thank you very much.” pic.twitter.com/ZOkTUbpQCP
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 24, 2021
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney — who voted for impeachment — said Trump should play no role “in the future of the party or the country” when asked about his CPAC speech. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy abruptly ended the press conference and later said during an appearance on Fox News that Cheney was partaking in “cancel culture.”
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) responds to Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-WY) comment that Trump should not participate in CPAC:
“The idea that a Republican would join with cancel culture is beyond wrong.” pic.twitter.com/ESwmdN8ZzC
— The Recount (@therecount) February 25, 2021
Polling data shows Trump still holds enormous influence in the party. While the internal divides among Republicans will likely persist for some time, the former president has both the authority and the platform to make a case for Republican unity and a bold agenda against the Democrats.