Donald Trump has returned to the stage for the first time since leaving the White House, gracing a cheering crowd with a characteristically rambling, fib-laden and generally bonkers speech.
The former president was speaking at Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), a hotbed of right-wing and conservative politicians, pundits and supporters who lapped up every word he said.
Taking the microphone as the crowd cheered wildly, Trump asked: “Do you miss me yet?”
Here’s what else happened...
He’s still bitter
Trump spent much of his 90-minute speech repeating his completely debunked claims that he did in fact win the 2020 presidential election.
“I won the first one. We won the second,” he said. “What a disgrace to our country.”
“We have a very sick and corrupt electoral process that has to be fixed immediately. This election was rigged. And the Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it.”
Trump and his allies spent two months denying his election defeat, claiming without evidence it was the result of widespread voter fraud. Then his supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6 seeking to disrupt congressional certification of Biden’s win.
He hinted at a return
While there have been rumours Trump could start his own political party, last night he gave no indication this would happen and instead claimed he could help Republicans to regain majorities in the US House of Representatives and Senate in 2022 congressional elections.
What he didn’t highlight was that these majorities were lost while he lead the party.
He said: “We’re not starting new parties. We have the Republican Party. It’s going to be united and be stronger than ever before. I am not starting a new party.
“With your help, we will take back the House, we will win the Senate and then a Republican president will make a triumphant return to the White House. I wonder who will that be?
“Who, who, who will that be, I wonder.”
They might not want him back though
CPAC polled those present on a number of topics including who they would vote for 2024 Republican presidential nominating race. Trump won with 55% of the vote, which isn’t as impressive as it first sounds.
Veteran Republican operative Karl Rove, noting on Fox News that the CPAC crowd comprised “the truest Trump believers,” said that for him “to only get 55%” shows “he is losing strength because he’s not introducing something new.
“He’s losing strength whether he recognises it.”
The poll result is even more striking given the conference, held this year in Orlando instead of the Washington suburbs because of Covid-19 restrictions, was a tribute to Trump and Trumpism,
There was even a golden Trump statue.
Embarrassingly for Trump, it later transpired the statue was made in Mexico, the country the former president repeatedly railed against during his time in the White House and blamed for the loss of American jobs.
He had a go at Biden but only highlighted his own failings
Taking aim at the man who beat him in the election last year, Trump said: “Joe Biden has had the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history.”
Biden has spent the first month of his presidency tackling the coronavirus pandemic that ran out of control under Trump’s leadership and which has killed half a million Americans and counting.
Recent Gallup polls have given Biden a job approval rating well past 50%.
Trump never achieved above 49%.
White House spokesperson Michael Gwin said after the speech: “While the GOP casts about for a path forward, President Biden is going to remain laser-focused on crushing the virus, re-opening schools, and getting Americans back to work.”