The complicated relationship between Trump and CPACPresident Trump's status with the Conservative Political Action Conference has gone from "it's complicated" to a full-on committed relationship.That turnaround was to be expected, given that the former reality TV star and billionaire businessman pulled off an unlikely upset last November that finally gave attendees at CPAC what they had been salivating over for more than a decade — control of the White House, Congress and a new conservative justice nominated to the Supreme Court.But to do that, attendees had to be willing to embrace Trump's brand of populist conservatism that hasn't always jibed with the more libertarian strain that's been in command at CPACs of yesteryear."Is Trump a conservative? He's not — no, I don't think so," said college student Matt Longenacker who was attending from Lancaster, Pa.But the 21-year-old still cast his ballot last November for Trump, albeit with some reservations that Trump might actually grow the federal government instead of shrinking it."Unfortunately, it takes somebody who isn't willing to play by the rules to get the job done. And right now, that's how I tend to agree with him in that sense," Longenacker said.Cheryl Posavac, 49, from Philadelphia, made the case that Trump did show some shades of conservatism that blended in with a more libertarian worldview."He's a true believer in America and the Constitution," she said. "I don't think we've seen that in a while — somebody very much championing that. Not really; not in the traditional sense."Is Trumpism the new Reaganism?The last person who embodied the group's perfect conservative ideal was one that Trump's team was quick to draw a comparisons to throughout the week — President Ronald Reagan.Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged in his speech Thursday night that his own political marriage with Trump may have seemed like an odd one, given their contrasting images."You know, I'm a small town guy. He's big city. I'm Midwest, he's Manhattan Island," the former Indiana governor laughed. "He's known for his bigger-than-life personality, his charm, and his charisma. And I'm, like, not."But, it was another one-time famous star who ultimately provided the mantle to which all other conservatives are still measured up to."You know, from the outset, our president reminded me of somebody else, a man who inspired me to actually join the cause of conservatism nearly 40 years ago, President Ronald Reagan," Pence said.American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp, whose group sponsors CPAC each year, made the same comparison."You know the last time a president of the United States came to CPAC in his first year?" he asked the crowd before introducing Trump Friday morning. "Ronald Reagan in 1981."White House chief of staff Reince Priebus also made sure the allusion to the 40th president was clear."Some of the core principles of President Trump are very similar to those of Ronald Reagan," the former Republican National Committee chairman told CPAC attendees on Thursday. "When you look at peace through strength and building up the military ... peace through strength, deregulation. You think about the economy, the economic boom that was created. And some of it is going to take a little time, I mean, to get the jobs back; to get more money in people's pockets. Those things are going to happen."While there are some similarities in Trump's view of America's great days that lie ahead, his speech to CPAC was not Reagan's "shining city on a hill" or brimming with the kind of optimism that the former president inspired. But the speech was not exactly the dark "American carnage" Trump talked about in his inaugural address just over a month ago, either.To hear the president tell it, his initial relationship with CPAC that began six years ago when he first addressed the gathering was love at first sight."I walked the stage on CPAC. I'll never forget it, really. I had very little notes and even less preparation," Trump reflected on Friday. "So when you have practically no notes and no preparation and then you leave and everybody was thrilled, I said, 'I think I like this business.' "He didn't run the next year after giving that speech in 2011, but the ultimately successful campaign he would launch in June 2015 drew from those same populist ideals he laid out to CPAC in his first appearance. He told the crowd six years ago that if he were president "we'll be taking back hundreds of billions of dollars from other countries that are screwing us, we'll be creating vast numbers of productive jobs, and we'll rebuild our country so that we can be proud."
Tags donald trump cpac The complicated relationship between Trump and CPAC Trump At CPAC Trump And CPAC Conservative Political Action Conference White House President Trump speaks on the final morning of CPAC Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Maryland.
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