Trump Back in Friendly Confines at Rally Among Conservatives

Mario Parker and Anna Waters
Trump Back in Friendly Confines at Rally Among Conservatives

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump put the coronavirus scare mostly behind him for a while on Saturday with a speech to conservative activists heavy on mockery of Democrats vying to be his opponent in November.

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference is an annual gathering of some of Trump’s most fervent supporters in National Harbor, Maryland.

Trump spared almost none of the Democrats running for their party’s nomination, including former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In the latter case, Trump shrank behind the podium and said, to loud cheers, “Get me off this stage!” to portray the billionaire at Tuesday’s Democratic candidates’ debate. Biden, meanwhile, couldn’t be “easier to beat,” Trump said.

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The White House has faced extraordinary new pressure this week from the coronavirus outbreak that’s has left U.S. stock markets -- whose strength is often cited by Trump as a proxy for his success as president -- badly bruised.

The global spread of the coronavirus sent U.S. stocks to their worst week since the financial crisis more than a decade ago. The World Health Organization raised its global risk level for the virus and White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told the conference a few days ago that some schools might close.

Trump took the stage at CPAC shortly after a news conference at the White House at which he announced the first U.S. victim of coronavirus, as well as expanded travel restrictions and warnings.

He continues to be upbeat about prospects for the U.S. to keep the virus threat at bay, at odds with more pointed warnings from members of the health-care community and some of his own advisers.

Trump’s approval rating has taken a hit along with the stock market. In Friday’s Rasmussen daily presidential tracking poll Trump’s approval fell five points, to 47% from 52%.

Still, the threat posed by the virus didn’t dampen a festive mood at CPAC, which kicked off on Wednesday.

Red “Keep America Great” hats were ubiquitous as were T-shirts and other merchandise featuring the president’s likeness and name.

The meeting attracts an audience of Republican elected officials, activists and Trump supporters like Bill Secunda, a 59-year-old sculptor from Butler, Pennsylvania. Secunda spent three months building the 300-pound statue of Trump out of nails.

“Watching President Trump operate, I just wanted to kind of pay tribute to him,” Secunda said. “I do think he’s America’s super hero and he’s tough as nails. When I heard that one day, someone mentioned that he was tough as nails, I thought I got to build that piece now, so here it stands.”

Ray McCartney, 50, an air traffic controller from Grafton, West Virginia, and first-time CPAC attendee, said keeping the country on the same trajectory and re-electing Trump is the most pressing issue for him.

McCartney said he voted for Barack Obama in 2008, but was disappointed by his presidency. He said he grew disillusioned with politics until Trump’s first campaign.

“It’s his election to lose,” McCartney said of Trump, adding that Democrats don’t have a strong candidate. “Bernie Sanders is out of his mind,” McCartney said. “Even if he does become president, Congress isn’t going to work with him.”

Earlier: Trump Broadens Travel Restrictions After Coronavirus Death

--With assistance from Josh Wingrove.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mario Parker in Washington at mparker22@bloomberg.net;Anna Waters in Washington at awaters27@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Ros Krasny, Steve Geimann

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