I am beat.
I’ve just returned home from a 3-day whirlwind that the folks at the American Conservative Union (ACU) call the Conservative Political Action Conference (or CPAC). This was my third year attending, and I have to say that once again the ACU hosted a wonderful event. I love going to CPAC each year because it gives me an opportunity to mix and mingle with grassroots activists from all over the country. It also allows me the opportunity to reenergize by feeding off of the frenzy that these passionate defenders of conservatism exude during the conference.
At CPAC 2016 I experienced some great moments. Senator Benjamin Sasse (R-NE) delivered an excellent, thought-provoking and educational speech on the greatness of America. Ayan Hirsi Ali eloquently explained the dangers of Islam, while also condemning the listless attitude of the Left towards that very real, existential danger. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) brought down the house as he called for constitutional conservatives to unite behind a real conservative candidate. And there were many other great moments, speeches and conversations. However, the most telling part of CPAC 2016 may very well have been Donald Trump’s decision to bail out on the event.
While the Trump camp claims that it was simply because they needed to do some last minute campaigning in Kansas, it seems far more likely that they had taken the temperature of CPAC 2016 and realized that while their candidate did have some fans in attendance, he was not going to be received as warmly as he usually enjoys. He was right, and perhaps it was wise for him to stay away from CPAC this year.
However, herein lies the biggest problem for the Trump campaign.
CPAC represents the most important collection of conservative activists on the Republican calendar. The CPAC attendees are energetic and active across the country, and they tirelessly work to see Republican candidates elected at every level of government. If Donald Trump can’t get them to support him, he will not be able to win. It won’t happen.
The 2016 CPAC straw poll exposed Trump’s glaring weakness when it showed him being trounced by Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio .
Even more telling (and astonishing) is what happens when you combine the First Choice and Second Choice votes of CPAC goers… Donald Trump falls to last place among the remaining (active) candidates.
That’s right, folks. Among conservatives Donald Trump is losing in overall popularity to John Kasich!
It get’s worse. When asked about who they would want to see as Vice President, Donald Trump barely rated in the poll. Only 1% of respondents thought he’d make an acceptable Vice President.
Mr. Trump doesn’t need conservatives to win the nomination. He can cobble together a coalition of moderate Republicans and Blue Dog style Democrats and hope that the rest of the field splits the rest of the vote (which is exactly what has been happening) to win the nomination. But without conservatives, Mr. Trump doesn’t have any hope at winning the general election, even if most of the GOP unites behind him. Without these grassroots activists going out, knocking on doors, shaking hands, calling their neighbors and mobilizing their communities to vote, no Republican candidate can hope to defeat the Democrats… even with a candidate as bad as Hillary Clinton.
The roughly 30-35% of Republicans who love Donald Trump can continue to push him forward to spite the rest of the party if they’d like, but they better remember that come election time, the people they spent months denigrating, mocking, booing and attacking are the same people they’ll need to help get their candidate elected.
And after CPAC, I just don’t see that happening.
So vote for Donald Trump at your own risk, because by nominating him you may well be ensuring a Hillary Clinton presidency.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com