President Trump was greeted with a hero’s welcome Friday when he addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference — in stark contrast to what he faced just a year ago when he was considered a political pariah at the conclave of right-of-center activists.
Trump, in fact, was the only major contender for the Republican presidential nomination who did not address CPAC in 2016.
At that CPAC gathering, many conservative movers and shakers from all 50 states dismissed Trump as an opportunist who was merely trying to masquerade as “one of us.”
Pennsylvania businessman Jeff Goldberg, a veteran participant at CPAC conferences and their Keystone State version (Pennsylvania Leadership Conference) told Newsmax in 2016 that Trump backed out of CPAC “because he didn’t want to show he was a late convert in the church of true believers.”
At “CPAC 2017,” Goldberg told me, “there are still some issues on which I don’t think Trump is a conservative: support for NATO and trade, to name two. But I am very impressed with some of his Cabinet appointments, such as [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions, [Health and Human Services Secretary] Tom Price, and — best of all — General James Mattis as secretary of defense.”
Goldberg added that Trump “hit a home run” with conservatives by appointing Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
Another CPAC veteran, Colin Hanna of the grass-roots organization Let Freedom Ring, told us in 2016 that Trump did not attend CPAC “because he didn’t want to be booed.”
On Sunday, when I reminded him of his words, Hanna replied: “What a difference a year makes! He's still more dealmaker than conservative, but he has figured out that he will get a lot of support if he makes deals that please conservatives.”
Hanna went on to explain that “tax cuts and abortion are perhaps the two most obvious examples. A few years ago, he said that wealthy people should pay more. Now he says that tax cuts create jobs. A few years ago, he said he was pro-choice. Now he says he's pro-life and gave one of the strongest debate performances ever on that issue.
“Are these indications of a genuine philosophical conversion to conservatism or are they calculated to win conservative support? More importantly, does it really matter? He has nominated a conservative Cabinet and a conservative to the Supreme Court. That's what matters.”
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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