Amid speculation that former President Donald Trump would one day leave the party to form his own political party, Trump made it clear that he intends on staying with the Republicans. In the process, Trump is pushing aside those like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and GOP members of Congress who voted to impeach and convict Trump, many of whom were previously seen as part of the GOP establishment.
Delivering his first in-person speech since his presidency to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando on Sunday, Trump drew a line in the sand between his supporters and the remaining faction of the party that supported his impeachment.
“I am not starting a new party. They kept saying he was going to ‘start a brand new party.’ We have the Republican Party. It is going to unite and be stronger than before. I am not starting a new party. That was fake news,” Trump said. "Wouldn’t that be brilliant? Let’s start a new party and let’s divide our vote so that you can never win. No, we’re not interested in that.”
While Trump vows a united Republican Party, he has dispensed abhorrence toward members of the party who voted to impeach him, endorsing opposition campaigns in attempts to unseat some of the 10 House members who voted for impeachment.
He also released a scathing statement about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier this month. While McConnell did not vote to convict Trump during the impeachment trial, McConnell suggested that the former president can be held liable for the insurrection at the US Capitol on Jan. 6 that resulted in the deaths of five people, including a Capitol Police officer.
Those in attendance at CPAC responded by making Trump their overwhelming favorite to win the Republican nomination in 2024. In a straw poll of participants, 55% said they would support Trump, while 21% said they would support Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The rest all polled at or below 4%.
Without Trump on the ballot, DeSantis was the leading candidate among those polled at 43%, followed by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who polled at 11%. Donald Trump Jr. came in third at 8%.
While Trump rallied the base that could push him toward another party nomination in 2024, some Republicans aren’t ready to accept the GOP as the party of Trump.
“We have a choice as a party,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger on CNN on Sunday. Kinzinger was among 10 GOP representatives who voted to impeach Trump. “It’s like a Sunday morning hangover -- we can come to grips with what our life has become or we can start drinking Bloody Marys and deal with it later. And there are some that are taking that route.”
During Trump’s address on Sunday, he repeated some of the same rhetoric that he used that got him booted from social media platforms, falsely claiming that he won the 2020 election. Joe Biden defeated Trump by 7 million votes and 74 Electoral College votes.
While doing so, Trump teased a possible 2024 run, bolstered by the CPAC straw poll.
“Who knows, who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time,” Trump said.