Analysis: Donald Trump is back in business

Nick Allen
·3 min read
Former US President Donald Trump at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando - REUTERS/Octavio Jones
Former US President Donald Trump at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando - REUTERS/Octavio Jones

Reports of Donald Trump's political demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Mr Trump's first major post-presidential speech on Sunday was a tour de force by the most forceful personality in American politics.

Love him or loathe him, he's back. Like many of Mr Trump's speeches this 90-minute marathon covered an awful lot of ground.

Supporters and detractors will each have found plenty in it to wind themselves up about.

But for America, there were really three key questions that needed answering.

The first was, is Mr Trump still able to enthuse his own supporters following his defeat in 2020, a second impeachment, and a self-imposed political hiatus? The answer to that was, resoundingly, yes.

Secondly, was he really thinking about launching an independent party, which would throw the Republican Party into chaos? The answer to that was, resoundingly, no. "Fake news," Mr Trump said.

The Republican Party would unite and win in 2024, he said.

Thirdly, will he run for the White House in 2024? That appeared to depend on the answer to question one. Therefore, the answer was - probably yes.

During his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC] Mr Trump gave several knowing looks and smiles as he danced around the subject of a 2024 comeback bid, as if testing the waters.

Donald Trump rejected the idea of starting a third political party - Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg
Donald Trump rejected the idea of starting a third political party - Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg

The response he got was chants of "We Love You!". Other American politicians, Republican or Democrat, do not trigger such chants from their supporters.

Of course, the next presidential election is a long way off, and much can happen. But as everyone in the Republican Party, including his detractors, acknowledges, Mr Trump is the overwhelming favourite for the nomination - if he wants to be.

In a straw poll of conservative activists at CPAC, Mr Trump won 55 per cent of the vote, way ahead of all rivals.

Asked if they wanted him to run again, 68 per cent said yes. Others wanted someone else to take up the torch of "Trumpism".

It was interesting that Mr Trump himself spent some time in his speech defining "Trumpism".

He said its founding principles included great trade deals, low taxes, cutting regulation, strong borders, no riots in the streets, the Second Amendment and a strong military.

If Mr Trump decides not to run, he would undoubtedly be the Republican kingmaker, anointing a younger follower of "Trumpism".

There is a host of would-be heirs waiting in the wings. At CPAC Ron DeSantis, 42, emerged as the early flavour of the month.

In a straw poll, which was taken without Mr Trump as an option, he won 43 per cent, with the second place candidate on 11 per cent.

Mr DeSantis set out his stall in a fiery speech condemning the "failed Republican establishment" and saying: "What’s true in Florida is what’s true for conservatives across this nation."

Whether he is seeking to be the Republican nominee, or to be Mr Trump's running mate, remains to be seen.