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Republicans Warm Up For Trump's Re-Election Campaign At Annual CPAC

Mar 1, 2019
Originally published on March 1, 2019 4:38 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

While more than a dozen Democrats are campaigning to replace President Trump, the president's own re-election argument is taking shape. As NPR's Scott Detrow reports, it is on full display this week at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference outside of Washington.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: You can divide President Trump's re-election pitch into three parts. Speaking to CPAC, Vice President Mike Pence marched through them. The first, despite some recent turbulence, the economy is doing really well.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Everywhere you look, confidence is back. Jobs are coming back. In a word, America is back, and we're just getting started.

(APPLAUSE)

DETROW: Pence said the Trump administration has a lot to do with that - executive orders cutting back Obama-era regulations, and he says...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PENCE: President Trump signed the largest tax cut and tax reform in American history. That's promises made and promises kept.

(APPLAUSE)

DETROW: The second prong - playing to Trump's base, that core group of 30 to 40 percent of voters who are there to support Trump no matter what and want to see him accomplish his more hard-line policies. That's why Pence promised to build the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PENCE: And I'll make you a promise. Before we're done, we're going to build it all.

(APPLAUSE)

DETROW: The third plank of the argument has been picking up steam in recent weeks as Pence, Trump and Republicans like Texas Senator Ted Cruz have watched the Democratic presidential field take form.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TED CRUZ: They're getting more and more and more extreme on every issue.

DETROW: Focusing on recent Virginia and New York bills that remove restrictions on abortions later in pregnancies, Pence argued the Democratic Party is out of step with the rest of the country. He also pointed to policies Democrats are campaigning on.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PENCE: Under the guise of "Medicare-for-all" and a Green New Deal, Democrats are embracing the same tired economic theories that have impoverished nations and stifled the liberties of millions over the past century. That system is socialism.

DETROW: The attacks rev up CPAC attendees like Minerva Diaz.

MINERVA DIAZ: It makes it like pie in the sky the way they've put it out. Oh, you - we'll give you free this and free this. Well, you know what? Money does not grow on trees, AOC.

DETROW: But Pence, Trump and other Republicans are hoping they also win over on-the-fence moderates and unhappy Republicans who may have drifted to Democrats or stayed home in 2018. He repeatedly framed the choice as one between freedom and socialism.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PENCE: The moment America becomes a socialist country is the moment that America ceases to be America.

(APPLAUSE)

DETROW: Republicans are clear-eyed about all the energy on the Democratic side. Ted Cruz said his closer-than-expected Senate race against Beto O'Rourke was a warning sign.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CRUZ: Now, what is the lesson for 2020? We are going to see the left turn out in massive numbers. They're going to flood cash. That differential is going to be the battle for the country.

DETROW: Still, most of the people at CPAC are like Florida State University student Corey Adamyk.

COREY ADAMYK: Well, I'm going to say this. I feel a lot more confident than I did in 2016, and we saw how that went.

DETROW: President Trump comes to CPAC tomorrow to make his pitch for himself. Scott Detrow, NPR News, National Harbor, Md. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.