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CPAC exposes conservative split

Thought Leader: Josh Kraushaar
March 5, 2023
Source: Axios

This week’s CPAC conference underscored the difficulty Republicans will have in keeping their increasingly fractured coalition together for 2024.

Why it matters: The Republican Party once was defined by its general ideological unity on three core conservative principles: free markets, a muscular foreign policy and traditional social values. Those pillars made up the Reagan revolution.

What happened: Companies showcasing progressive values that embrace diversity — such as Disney and PNC Bank — came under attack.

What they’re saying: Trump delivered the conference’s keynote address Saturday with a vengeful indictment of the GOP establishment that dominated the party before his political ascent.

The intrigue: The divide over Ukraine was on full display at CPAC: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) targeted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in her speech Friday, telling him to “leave your hands off of our sons and daughters.”

Notable quotable: A top Trump adviser told Axios that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who hasn’t entered the race but is widely presumed to be Trump’s top competitor for the nomination — has “Reagan Republican” vulnerabilities the former president will exploit.

By the numbers: Trump dominated DeSantis at the CPAC straw poll, 62%-20%. That’s an improvement from his 2022 CPAC performance, when Trump led DeSantis 59%-28% — and not surprising, given the MAGA-focused theme of the convention.

The bottom line: Trump’s campaign is prioritizing the 30% of Republicans who consider themselves “Trump-first Republicans,” while letting his rivals compete for backing among those who support the party first.

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