Attendees of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) showed their support for President Donald Trump in this year’s straw poll, with 86 percent of respondents saying they approve of the job Trump is doing.
These results, which were released on Saturday during the closing ceremony of the four-day event, represent a marked departure from last year’s conference, where Trump received only 15 percent of the vote.
This shift in tone represents a sense of cohesion within the Republican electorate that has largely evaporated since 2008, and that some pundits were skeptical would ever come back. While many conservatives were reluctant to accept Trump during the primaries because of his largely unconventional platform, this year’s straw poll revealed that 80 percent of CPAC attendants also revealed that they now feel Trump is doing an adequate job of “realigning” the Conservative movement.
This is particularly noteworthy as Trump actually skipped last year’s conference as Republican voters questioned his conservatism, announcing on the morning he was scheduled to speak that he would no longer be making an appearance.
While GOP heavyweights like Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz attended last year’s conference, which is often regarded as both the largest and one of the most important annual conservative gatherings, Trump was still able to walk away with both the Republican nomination and the presidency, positioning himself even then as something of an unstoppable force.
In fact, it seems as though most #NeverTrump Republicans have begun to accept the president. Even the most vocal members of the group, which included Rubio and other notable conservatives like former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, have warmed up to Trump and are voicing their support for the president
When Trump first cinched the republican nomination last July Rubio offered his (albeit lukewarm) support, and tweeted, “I’ve always said I’m going to support the Republican nominee.” This was a sharp departure for the Florida senator, who sold “#NeverTrump” merchandise during the primaries.
Of course, that is not to say there has been no dissension within the party. Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain have been some of Trump’s most vocal opponents, publicly questioning the president on policy issues, especially when it comes to more controversial decisions like Trump’s immigration ban, or his alleged ties to the Russian government.
However, even with their criticism, the senators have expressed their desire to help Trump- even if it just for the sake of the party.
“I want to help the president-elect be a good president,” Graham said in January of the then newly-elected Trump. “I would hope he’d want to work with Congress in a bipartisan fashion to push back against Russia, because they’re really up to no good.”
Still, the Republican Party has stood united since Election Day, confirming virtually all of President Trump’s cabinet picks, with the one exception being Andrew Puzder who withdrew his name from the running for labor secretary after mounting political pressure.
Despite their disagreements, today’s GOP has transformed from the fragmented, tumultuous party that lost the election eight years ago to a united front set on advancing its agenda on both the executive and legislative levels.