On Day One Of CPAC, Donald Trump Steals The Show

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Newt Gingrich talked policies, and the crowd seemed to like it. Rick Santorum announced that “America belongs to God,” and he was politely applauded. But it was Donald Trump, a real estate investor who became a reality show star, who finally got the crowd’s 2012 election juices going on the first day of the Conservative Political Action Committee conference. And it sure sounded like the Donald was running for president.

“Considering the state of the country we need a competitive person,” Trump said, after noting the Business Week had named him “the world’s most competitive business person.” “If I run and if I win, this country will be respected again.”

The conservative crowd, heavily populated by college students in ill-fitting suits, ate it up, standing and cheering at several points during the speech. One of Trump’s biggest cheers came when Trump responded to some Libertarian hoots from the crowd, “By the way, Ron Paul cannot get elected. I’m sorry.”

Like other speakers before him, Trump’s campaign message springs directly from the general sense of American decline. “The U.S. is becoming the laughing stock of the world,” he said, noting that a German company had just bought the New York Stock Exchange and OPEC had recently raised its gas prices. “This country is in serious trouble.”

Trump went on at length about his own greatness, quoting others, including Business Week, who had praised him. “Over the years, I have beaten many people and companies, and I have won many wars,” said Trump, whose companies have repeatedly filed for bankruptcy. This is the Trump pitch: He knows how to win. America is losing. He can make it win again. It was a message that won the day, though Trump still has a long way to go.