DALLAS — In an hour-long speech that fired up his base of Make America Great Again supporters, former President Donald Trump assured the adoring crowd at the CPAC convention in Dallas that with their help, they would “defeat the radical left, the socialists, Marxists and the critical race theorists.”

What You Need To Know

  • The CPAC held its second meeting this year in Dallas for a three-day event of networking and activism from the conservative wing of the Republican party

  • Former President Donald Trump was the event's headliner, and many in attendance hoped he would declare a run for the White House in 2024

  • More than 3,200 people attended the event, one of the biggest gatherings of the year for conservative Republican activists

“We will secure our borders, we will stop left wing cancel culture, we will restore free speech and free elections and we will make America great again,” he said as the crowd erupted into chants of “U.S.A!” and “four more years.”

In many ways, Trump’s speech was very much the same substance his audience has heard in the handful of appearances he’s made since leaving the White House in January.

Trump spent an hour repeating a litany of the complaints about the “radical left” trying to silence conservatives like the CPAC crowds. He repeated claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” through voting fraud and manipulation, a claim repeatedly dismissed in several federal and state courts because of a lack of evidence.

He assailed the “political persecution” of him and his family and associates and accused the Democrats of taking over the government and its institutions, saying that “the entire system was rigged against the American people.”

He boasted about the class-action lawsuit he filed last week against Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for what he called the “illegal and shameful censorship of the American people.” Trump’s accounts on these social media platforms were shut down after the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol, which many have blamed the former president for inciting with his social media posts.

He assailed President Joe Biden for his handling of border security, saying he had “turned the border into the single biggest disaster in American history, and perhaps in world history.”

“You never stopped fighting for me, and I will never ever stop fighting for you,” he said.

“They tried everything to get me out. They want me out,” he said. “But, here I am on a nice, beautiful sunny day in Texas.”

Trump predicted that in 2022 Republicans will take back Congress, and in 2024, “that glorious White House that sits so majestically in our nation’s capital.”

But if the audience of the Dallas CPAC, or Conservative Political Action Conference, was expecting the former president to declare his candidacy for 2024, what they got instead was a rallying of his base and praise for their participation in what he called the “greatest political movement in the history of the country.”

While CPAC conferences are meant to be networking and organizing events for the conservative base of the Republican Party, the Dallas event solidified its new reputation of mainly being a three-day lovefest for Trump, with many in the crowd hitching the hopes on the prospect of Trump making a White House run in 2024. Many said they believed the 45th president was still the president, leaving the White House in January because of a fraudulent, stolen election they did not recognize.

The gathering is a mecca for conservative activists, politicians and grassroots organizers to discuss issues and fire up the base.

“I just love the guy, I can’t help it,” said Greg Davies, an airline pilot from Chicago. He was in Dallas for training and not an attendee at CPAC, but he had made friends at the hotel bar, among those he said were in the “same mindset politically.”

“I think he’ll win again and restore this country back to order. Clean up this mess the Democrats have made. At least, I hope he does,” he said.

An undercurrent of adherence to the narrative of a “stolen” election that Trump actually won permeated the event.

CPAC features a straw poll each convention period and serves as an opinion poll for some 3,200 attendees. The Dallas convention conducted a straw poll of 20 questions via an online app. The questions focused on some of the red meat issues dominating the conference, such as critical race theory, border security and religious liberty.

The most anticipated questions on the straw poll dealt with the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. In Dallas, Trump won the CPAC straw poll, with 70% of the voters choosing him in a hypothetical Republican nomination for a presidential candidate. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis came in second with 21% of the vote.

The Dallas straw poll results showed a 15 percentage point jump for Trump from the February CPAC straw poll in Orlando, where Trump got 55% of the vote and DeSantis 21%.

When Trump is taken off the poll, DeSantis led the pack with 68% of the vote, former Sec. of State Mike Pompeo got 5%, and Donald Trump Jr. had 4%.

Even without the straw poll, it’s clear from talking to participants and speakers at the Dallas CPAC that Trump continues to lead the Republican party and that his personality cult continues to thrive.

Hours before Trump was scheduled to speak, crowds of his supporters began gathering across the street from the Hilton Anatole. Flags reading “Trump 2024: Save America Again” and “Texas for Trump” mixed in with the “Back the Blue” version of the American flag and curse words for President Biden.

Loudspeakers blared patriotic country songs and Trump-themed tunes, including “Keep America Great.”

Without tickets to get inside the hotel for Trump’s speech, hundreds of fans stood in the summer heat to show their support for the former president, many of them saying they hoped he ran again.

“I don’t think he started all this just to walk away,” said Marlene, a self-described activist from Denton. “It’s not his style to give up.”

Marlene declined to give her last name, saying “there’s just a lot of crap happening,” including what she described as being censored and “canceled” on all her social media accounts. She said she didn’t trust giving her name out to anyone anymore. 

Marlene said she and her group of activists have been protesting and petitioning at local school boards in North Texas to stop the “indoctrination of our children” with the false history taught in critical race theory that teaches children to “hate America.” She said she’d also been a vocal advocate for keeping local school districts from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine to children because the vaccine was a “gene-alternating experiment,” she said.

“Children should not take this vaccine, and we have to prevent schools from requiring it. Adults can make their own decisions, but we have to protect the children,” she said.

Should Trump run in 2024?

“I tell you what, there will not be an election in 2024 or ever again in this country, if we don’t fix what happened in 2020,” she said.

That election was fraudulent, and there’s proof everywhere that it was Trump who actually won, Marlene said.

“We will never have free and fair elections again if they don’t reverse this fake election and put our rightful president back in the White House,” she said.