OXON HILL, Md. — At a private pre-CPAC speech reception for VIPs and raffle winners, former President Donald Trump took to the stage to chants of “we want Trump!” In attendance was a jumble of MAGA characters, from well-known rally attendees like the “Front Row Joes” and “Brick Man” to Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, Nigel Farage and former administration official Kash Patel.
During the speech, Trump focused in part on Social Security, which he’s been vocal about vowing to protect in recent weeks. In particular, he appeared to target Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, one of his potential opponents, over the topic.
“Somebody’s running, let them run. If they’re not going to announce what they’re doing, I assume they’re running, right? We assume they’re running. And I said there’s no way we will allow them ... to attack Social Security. There’s no way we will allow them — because a certain person wanted to attack Social Security and Medicare, and wanted to raise the minimum age to 70 … we’re going to take care of our Social Security, people have earned that,” Trump told the crowd.
“And you know, the one thing I’ve learned about politics: If there’s that early inclination — if somebody wants to cut Social Security, eventually, if they’re in a position of power, they’ll bring it back,” he continued.
When DeSantis was in Congress, he voted for budget resolutions that called for raising the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare. As Semafor previously reported, both Trump and Democrats plan to hone in on past support for entitlement cuts by DeSantis and other potential 2024 Republican contenders. DeSantis told Fox News last week that “we’re not going to mess with Social Security as Republicans.”
Attendees began lining up in the hallway of the Gaylord Convention Center hours before the event, which was put on by Trump’s Super PAC “Maga Inc.” The crowd, many of whom power-walked once allowed in the ballroom — to get as close to the stage as possible — featured some of Trump’s more devoted fans and functioned as a mini-rally of sorts: John Fredericks, who spoke ahead of Trump at the reception, joked that the weekend should be dubbed “TPAC” (Trump’s Political Action Conference). Trump easily won the event’s annual presidential straw poll the same night.
Also speaking ahead of Trump were a number of pro-Trump lawmakers — Reps. Wesley Hunt, Elise Stefanik, and Matt Gaetz, who brought MTG on stage as a surprise guest. They all praised the former president, and declared him the only person for the job come 2024.
- Semafor’s own Joseph Zeballos-Roig recently detailed how a small bipartisan group of Senate lawmakers are discussing raising the retirement age on Social Security to around 70 years old as part of a package of reforms to improve its financial outlook.