The annual Conservative Political Action Conference kicked off Thursday in Dallas, Texas, one of the largest gatherings of conservatives and, since its inception in 1974, a crucial campaign stop for Republican hopefuls.
This year, organizers hope to galvanize a growing base of voters ahead of the next midterm cycle in a bid to bring a shattering “red wave” of GOP lawmakers to Congress.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, far-right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Fox News Anchor and GOP firebrand and Fox News host Sean Hannity kicked off the conference, focusing on migration, weak Democrats and the big enterprises. The issue of abortion has received little attention despite the recent transition to a post-Roe America.
The headliner of the three-day convention on Saturday night is Donald Trump who teased running for president again in 2024. The former president last spoke in late July at America’s events First Policy Institute and Turning Point USA in Washington, where he focused primarily on promoting a tough criminal. judicial agenda.
He will speak before CPAC on Friday in Waukesha, Wis., at a rally in support of Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels.
Abbott, who was absent from the Dallas convention last year, was the first high-profile speaker on Thursday, joining a panel titled “Texas: The Beginning of the Great Red Wave.”
He touted his friendship with new Texas business resident Elon Musk of Tesla, talked about his transport of illegal immigrants to Washington and signified a growing tendency for Latinos to lean toward Republican politicians.
“Texas believes in freedom Texas believes in the power of the individual. We want to have safe communities, a secure border. We want to lower your property taxes here in the Lone Star State because we know it’s your money “, Abbott told a cheering crowd on the panel with CPAC President Matt Schlapp and CPAC Senior Researcher Mercedes Schlapp.
“Keep Texas red. Fire Nancy Pelosi, impeach Mayorkas, and get America on the right path.”
Speculation about a possible presidential bid in 2024 has long followed Abbott, who energized the crowd by talking about potential economic growth in the Lone Star State.
“It was only in May of this year that Texas hosted more Fortune 500 corporate headquarters than any other state in the United States of America,” he said.
He also took swipes at California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, who has recently targeted Republican peers like Abbott and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as talk swirls over his own ambitions for a Democratic presidential nomination in 2024.
Newsom turned to the Texas governor as he modeled a new California gun restriction law after Texas’ “heartbeat law,” which bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The California governor also ran full-page ads in the Austin American-Statesman, the Houston Chronicle and the El Paso Times criticizing Abbott’s positions on abortion rights and gun laws. fire.
“The first state Texans move to is California. Why would someone from Texas move to California? It’s because they like Gavin Newsom’s type of liberalism,” Abbott said. “We have an exchange program going on,” he joked. “We receive the [Californian] conservatives, we send them our liberals.”
Several other Texas conservatives are scheduled to speak at CPAC, including Sen. Ted Cruz Friday morning, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Friday night. Recently elected representative Mayra Flores is also expected to speak. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick spoke Thursday afternoon.
Joining Abbott on Thursday in a speech titled “How We Fight” was Orban – fresh from a meeting with Trump at the former president’s Bedminster, New Jersey, Golf Club. He repeated some of his more controversial views, denouncing LGBTQ issues and migration and the decline of Christianity in the Western world.
“Our values save us from repeating the mistakes of history. The horrors of the Nazis and the Communists happened because Western states in continental Europe abandoned their Christian values. And today’s progressives plan to do the same. They want to abandon Western values,” he said. .
“Globalists can all go to hell, I’ve been to Texas,” Orban said as he closed his remarks.
Hannity then delivered a fiery speech, beginning with comments about “election integrity” during the ongoing vote count in Arizona’s GOP gubernatorial primary on Tuesday.
“We still don’t know if Kari Lake won this gubernatorial race. Why not? How can we expect to have integrity in our elections if they can’t count the votes in 24 hours?” he said.
Hannity also rallied the crowd about the GOP’s chances in the upcoming midterm elections.
“We’ll get America back on track. And then we’ll win and 2024 and then we’ll be back in the ball game. And we’ll be that beautiful city on a hill that Reagan talked about. in our dream. Let’s make it our prayer. In the name of Jesus. You can say Jesus, it’s CPAC,” he said.
Appearances by Abbott and Orban, Patrick and Hannity will also be joined by other high-profile Republican figures, including former vice-presidential candidate and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, Rep. Jim Jordan, R -Ohio and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.
Trump-endorsed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is also expected to speak. The former local Fox News anchor is currently awaiting official results from the state’s Republican primary, although she has already declared victory several times and indicated she would not back down if the results were not favorable. to his campaign.
Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon is also in the lineup as a keynote speaker at CPAC’s Cattleman’s Ball on Saturday night, a week after he was found in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with investigations into the uprising of January 6 at the Capitol.
CPAC will also feature its famous straw poll, a historically popular contest to gauge the popularity of Republican leaders within the party.
This year will notably feature two separate straw polls — one with and one without Trump, who has won each of the contests since 2019.
CPAC’s main ballot will include Trump, DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, Cruz, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, Governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Also on the ballot are former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
The 2024 poll without Trump will feature Donald Trump Jr., as well as all of the aforementioned potential prospects.
DeSantis emerged from the annual Conservative Political Action Conference held in Orlando, Florida in February as the most competitive potential GOP presidential candidate with former President Donald Trump, coming in second with 28% and far more favored than other GOP prospects, including other CPAC speakers. Pompeo, Noem and Cruz, all of whom got less than 2%.
–ABC News’ Alina Kim contributed to this report