When a political party loses the presidency, it normally casts its eyes toward the future. Not so this year. Donald Trump’s speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this coming weekend sends the message that he is the “presumptive 2024 nominee,” according to Axios. Knowing Trump, this is not surprising. What is weird is that he is being allowed to do it. After all, vampires can only enter your house if you invite them in.
Is this the first example of how Trump is slowing the momentum for change and freezing out the future? During these post-election years, CPAC—generally held in late winter—has traditionally served as the unofficial coming-out party for the next wave of GOP presidential aspirants. You’d have to go back to the 1993 CPAC to find the last time an incumbent Republican president had lost re-election, but absolutely nobody at that conclave was clamoring for more George H.W. Bush.
And we (obviously) don’t have to go back far for examples of how CPAC has handled presidential defeats. In 2009 (the year Rush Limbaugh was the keynote), Mitt Romney won their straw poll. After Romney’s loss in 2013, the GOP released its “autopsy” report, and CPAC’s theme focused on the “next generation of conservatives.” There were speeches by Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Bobby Jindal, and Rand Paul (who won the straw poll), just to name a few.