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At CPAC, the conservative faithful double down on Trumpism

After resounding embrace of ex-president, leaders to define where movement goes next as it resists Biden agenda.

Updated: February 27, 2021 - 11:30pm

Cast aside the debunked Russia scandal, a roaring economy supplanted by pandemic, two impeachments, two acquittals and a whole lot Washington vitriol. The heart of America's conservative movement wants it to be known: Trumpism is here to stay.

Day one of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando delivered a resounding embrace of the 45th president and his "America First" agenda, and a warning to what host Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called "the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear."

It is time to get with the plan, or jump off the train, speaker after speaker implored. Sen. Ted Cruz explained why in one of the most cheered lines of the day.

"Let me tell you right now. Donald J. Trump ain't going anywhere," the Texas firebrand said.

"The Republican Party is not the party just of the country clubs," Cruz continued. "The Republican Party is the party of steel workers and construction workers and pipeline workers and taxi cab drivers and cops and firefighters and waiters and waitresses and the men and women with calluses on their hands who are working for this country. That is our party, and these deplorables are here to stay."

The opener of CPAC 2021 — moved to Florida from its normal haunts in Washington to embrace the Sunshine State's COVID-19 handling — gave conservatives a robust roast of liberal woke-ism, open borders, cancel culture, Big Tech censorship and so-called RINOs (Republicans in Name Only).

Now, CPAC turns Saturday to the mission of defining where the Trump-infused conservative movement must go in terms of ideas, new leaders and election strategy and how best to resist a Biden agenda most attendees equate to a mortal threat to American exceptionalism.

"These radical liberals, they want to erase our history," Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas told attendees Friday. "They want to replace it with their crazy Marxist theories."

In the end, the final word on where Trumpism is headed will be left to Donald Trump, who makes his first major public appearance since leaving office on Sunday as the closing CPAC speaker.

But before then, the emerging stars of conservativism — former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, former White House press secretary and Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former Ambassador Ric Grenell and Rep. Burgess Owens — will paint a vision of where the movement goes in a post-pandemic America where Democrats control most of Washington.

Noem wrote an op-ed signaling her speech will focus on rescuing Trump's American energy first agenda from Democrats' climate change regulations, while Pompeo signaled American security and economic growth can be improved without warfare.

"The Biden Administration claims 'America is back' — but America didn't go anywhere," Pompeo tweeted ahead of his speech. "Quite the opposite. We built enormous coalitions all around the world to secure American freedom. We made America more prosperous and much stronger."

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