Donald Trump returns to the political stage Sunday, determined to reassert his dominance over a Republican Party that is out of power and pondering whether the flawed former president can win again in 2024.
The 74-year-old addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando in a highly-anticipated keynote speech during which he is expected to tease attendees about his political future — including the possibility of another presidential run.
Banned from Twitter and other social media, Trump has maintained a low profile at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida since he left the White House on January 20. CPAC is his coming-out party.
He is sure to be greeted with reverence by a loyalist crowd as he calls for Republican unity — and perhaps rips some of his critics within the party — on the final day of the nation’s largest conservative gathering.
“We are not starting new parties, and we will not be dividing our power and our strength,” Trump will say, according to Fox News.
“Instead, we will be united and strong like never before.”
US political parties usually face a reckoning after a string of setbacks such as those the Republican Party saw under four years of Trump: losing the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The party is also marked with Trump’s repeated lies about his election loss to Joe Biden, his impeachment for inciting an insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, and the extraordinary faultline his actions have caused between establishment Republicans and pro-Trump populists.
But, instead of jettisoning its troubled leader and charting a new path to claw back relevance, much of the party still sees Trump as retaining a vice-like grip on its future.
It is a perception he has encouraged, setting himself up as a vindictive Republican kingmaker. On Friday he endorsed an ex-aide against an Ohio congressman who voted to impeach him.
A source familiar with Trump’s plans said the former president will be “talking about the future of the Republican Party” and will criticize some new Biden policies.
– Don’t ‘erase’ Trump –
But whether or not he harbors 2024 ambitions is perhaps the biggest question of all.
Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel claimed ignorance on that front when asked Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” about whether Trump will run again.