"We will defeat the Democrats," said Trump in his speech, which lasted around one and a half hours. "We will kick Joe Biden out of the White House." The audience reacted to his campaign slogan "We will make America great again" with calls for "four more years" of Trump in the White House.
Trump was the undisputed star at the Conservatives Conference that started on Wednesday. In a poll of CPAC participants asking who they would vote for in the 2024 Republican primary for president, Trump came in first by a wide margin. The 76-year-old right-wing populist received 62 percent of the vote, while Florida Governor Ron DeSantis came in second with 20 percent.
Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, who announced her candidacy for the presidency in mid-February and spoke at CPAC on Friday, received just three percent. When her name was mentioned, there was some booing from the audience. The survey is considered a kind of heart rate monitor for the mood at the base, but is not representative.
DeSantis, who stayed away from CPAC this year, has yet to announce a presidential bid. The step is expected in the coming months. The 44-year-old governor has long been considered the Republican most dangerous to Trump.
Thousands of participants attend the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the largest annual right-wing gathering in the United States. It is organized by the conservative lobby organization American Conservative Union, the first meeting took place in 1974.
Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also attended this year's meeting at a conference center in Maryland, just outside Washington. The right-wing politician repeatedly received thunderous applause during his speech on Saturday, including when he railed against mandatory corona vaccination. Bolsonaro described his relationship with Trump as "simply extraordinary".
Trump announced a new presidential bid last November. He still enjoys great popularity among the conservative base. However, many party representatives would rather go into the 2024 presidential election with another candidate than with the highly controversial ex-head of state, who alienates many centrist voters.
Leading Republicans blame Trump for the party's poor showing in last November's midterms -- and fear Trump as the presidential nominee could hurt their chances of retaking the White House in 2024.