At CPAC, It’s Now an All-Trump Show

OXON HILL, Md. — Donald J. Trump was still a New York businessman when he was booed at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2015 after he proposed fighting ISIS with troops on the ground in the Middle East.

Flash forward five years, and there was no room at the annual conservative conference this week for booing of anything related to President Trump, including the procession of his adult children and their spouses who appeared here on Friday to bash socialism and make the case for his re-election.

CPAC has been transformed from a gathering of libertarians where establishment Republicans mingled with fringe conservative activists into a stage for Mr. Trump and his top advisers and allies to road-test winning messages for the campaign trail. Republicans not on board with defending the president and his agenda, like Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, were disinvited from the conference this year.

“We need a CPAC full of happy warriors ready to deploy across the country!” Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee announced from the stage on Thursday, reminding the audience to “make certain we have four more years of President Donald Trump!”

Earlier in the day, K.T. McFarland, a former deputy national security adviser, recounted her ordeal testifying in front of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. “You do not want a government that will do to you what they did to me,” she warned the crowd. “Do not give your country over to these people.”

The stated theme of the four-day conference, “America vs. Socialism,” was meant to fire up Mr. Trump’s base in an election year and ferment distrust of Democrats and the mainstream news media. High-ranking members of the Trump administration did their part.

Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, blamed journalists for exaggerating the seriousness of coronavirus because “they think this will bring down the president. That’s what this is all about.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joked that he would not be distributing copies of his remarks because “Nance the Ripper is still on the loose,” a reference to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who showily tore up a copy of Mr. Trump’s State of the Union address this month.

For never Trump conservatives, however, the experience of attending the conference was lonely and disheartening.

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