The Trump Machine Hums at CPAC
Harp on the flaws at your peril....
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One speech – like one poll or one can of Pringles – is just a snapshot in time, giving you a solo data point. It’s never a good idea to read too much into a single event.
With that throat-clearing caveat in mind, I would ask you to consider watching Donald Trump’s one hour and forty-five minute CPAC stemwinder with an eye towards understanding the state of his presidential campaign.
You could, if you wanted to, join the Dominant Media in seeing the speech through various prisms that would tend to diminish both Trump and the venue. The hall was not full, CPAC was home court for the former president, the address was, of course, problematic in many ways.
For several years now, analysts, practitioners, and reporters have largely used the same metrics to adjudge any given Trump speech either a success or a failure – and, by these measures, most of his speeches have been failures.
What have Trump skeptics said his set pieces needed to contain to be winning?
* Limited discussion of his grievances and a focus on the grievances of the forgotten men and women.
* A magical combination of being on message using the teleprompter but/and with the Sinatra/Dangerfield riffing that worked in 2016 still somehow on offer.
* A bigger focus on Joe Biden than on Republicans, while still taking populist/irreverent shots at the Republican establishment that land hard with the live audience.
* A far greater emphasis on the future over the past.
* Laying out “specific” policies that simultaneously rev up the base AND energize suburban parents (even if the Dominant Media harps on the former and completely misses the latter).
* Tart media bashing.
* High energy.
* Limited or no mentions of the 2020 election.
* The frequent use of humor and constant projection of strength and electability.
Again, these are the standards that have been applied to many Trump speeches over the last few years -- and he’s mostly failed by them.
Too boring, too much “stolen election,” too sloppy, is what is generally said.
Why, the critiquers have asked, can’t Trump still give a good speech?
The answer typically has been that Trump himself is not disciplined enough to do the work and that his team wasn’t strong enough to overcome his resistance to using a process that could pull off a victory.
Well, for one night at least, Trump hit his marks.
There is always some subjectivity that goes into speech analysis, and Trump was certainly far from perfect at CPAC.
And, to be clear, I’m not looking here at Trump’s errors, divisive rhetoric, or lapses in all sorts of things. Unfortunately, as we saw in 2016, the man can deliver politically effective speeches even with what are major flaws.
But I would argue that by the standards laid out above, this speech was enough of a success to make the case that Trump showed discipline and performative talent; that his new team can actually work effectively with him to accomplish their joint goals; and that if future Trump rallies and debate performances reflect this shared planning and execution then the rest of the Republican field and the Democrats better watch out.
This is the Guardian’s understated take:
But before a cult-like crowd, Saturday’s event was a warning against Democratic complacency, an indicator that Trump is down but not out and that, just as in 2016, history could take a perilous turn.
Here are some key lines:
“We had a Republican Party that was ruled by freaks, neocons, globalists, open border zealots, and fools, but we are never going back to the party of Paul Ryan, Karl Rove, and Jeb Bush. People are tired of RINOs and globalists. They want to see America First.”
“In 2016, I declared: 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.”
“We are going to finish what we started. We started something that was a miracle. We’re going to complete the mission, we’re going to see this battle through to ultimate victory. We’re going to make America great again.”
“With you at my side, we will demolish the deep state. We will expel the war mongers... We will drive out the globalists. We will cast out the communists. We will throw off the political class that hates our country … We will beat the Democrats. We will rout the fake news media. We will expose and appropriately deal with the RINOs. We will evict Joe Biden from the White House. And we will liberate America from these villains and scoundrels once and for all.”
Significantly, Fox, CNN, and MSNBC took varying amounts of the speech live, which has not been the norm for those channels in the last few years. I wonder why…..
In the new news category, Trump told reporters at CPAC that he would continue running and likely be helped politically if he gets indicted. And he changed his tune on mail-in ballots and early voting, saying the Republican Party needs to compete in those realms.
You can watch the full Trump speech, courtesy the kind folks at C-SPAN, here.
Pro tip: For the busy, I suggest the 2x speed feature!
I’ve not cracked the code on Ron DeSantis’ Saturday night closed-press event in Dallas, but here is some of what happened:
One source tells me the crowd was enthusiastic about its guest speaker, and that he played up the shared macho bond between the two giant Sunbelt states (“Don’t’ mess with Texas” and “Don’t tread on Florida.”)
Here are three pictures from the event:
Remember, at 3:30 ET today, you can watch DeSantis’ own big speech at a key venue:
Livestream the remarks here.
Newsman Michael Graham of NH Journal sent in this email (reprinted here with his permission) following up on my item about potential nomination challenges to Joe Biden:
I’m the journo who asked RFK Jr about running (he was going to give entire speech and not mention it, I was told)
The morning RFK JR arrived, he was greeted by this:
Most interesting number to me: How few NH Dems care about FITN. They aren’t punishing Biden over primary. They just don’t like him, and they never have.
Note that party leaders were at RFK speech. Rep Pappas said the NH Dems are “inviting” candidates to campaign in FITN. I guess he meant it.
My best bet on Biden-Killer: Stacy Abrams. No downside for her, plus plenty of grift potential.
* Marianne Williamson’s announcement for the Democratic nomination via the Associated Press; what would have to happen for Mr. Biden to be forced onto a Democratic debate stage?
* The New York Times’ Peter Baker has an interesting audio recording of Fox News management and talent talking about 2020 Electoral College projections.
* “Fox and Friends” garnered the “Saturday Night Live” cold open: