Donald Trump is focused on uniting the Republican party behind his policy agenda and cult of personality, announcing to a giddy crowd of supporters at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that he would not start his own political party.
“I am not starting a new party. That was fake news,” the former president said, to a vigorous round of clapping and whooping from the crowd in Orlando, Florida.
“The brave Republicans in this room will be at the heart of the effort to oppose the radical Democrats, the fake news media, and their toxic cancel culture,” he said.
While recent polling indicates most Americans who voted for Trump have said they would join a hypothetical offshoot party founded by the former president, that majority was not overwhelming. Deep divisions remain within the Republican party over how to move forward in the aftermath of his presidency, but Mr Trump was emphatic that breaking off from the GOP would cede power to the Democrats.
“We're not starting new parties. You know, they kept saying, ‘He's going to start a brand new party.’ We have the Republican Party,” Mr Trump said, as the crowd roared.
“It's going to unite and be stronger than ever before,” he said.
Mr Trump derided those who have suggested he could try to found his own party, highlighting how it would be political suicide for the conservative electorate to divide its vote between candidates from two different parties.
“Wouldn’t that be brilliant — let's start a new party and let's divide our vote, so that you can never win,” Mr Trump joked. “No, we're not interested in that. We have tremendous [polling figures],” he said, rattling off his approval and favorability ratings among GOP-registered voters.
As expected, Mr Trump refused to acknowledge his 2020 election defeat to Joe Biden.
When the CPAC crowd belted out a “Four more years! Four more years!” chant following Mr Trump’s attack on his successor’s early executive actions rolling back his hardline immigration agenda, a wry smile creeped onto the former president’s face.
“As you know they just lost the White House, but it’s one of those — but who knows, who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time, OK?” he said.
His supporters were euphoric.
Less than two months ago, Mr Trump was impeached for inciting an insurrection at the Capitol as Congress was certifying the 2020 election results. Ten Republicans voted with all 221 Democrats to impeach him. At his impeachment trial in the Senate, seven Republicans joined all 50 Democrats and Democratic-caucusing Independents to vote him “guilty.”
He was acquitted after the upper chamber failed to clear the 67-vote threshold for conviction.