CPAC 2024: Will Byron Donalds Be Trump’s VP Pick?

Many of the people on former President and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s VP shortlist were present at CPAC 2024 and gave speeches. Among them, former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. New York Rep. Elise Stefanik has also been another name floated, and she also gave a speech at the conference. Save for two other names purportedly on the list – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott – it’s almost like CPAC was an audition of sorts.

Or at least the CPAC attendees thought so. Their picks for Trump VP in the Straw Poll rendered some interesting results.

With all due respect to the attendees at CPAC, I disagree. Trump refined his criteria for who he would choose as VP, and if their speeches were any indication, the Top 5 chosen do not fit the bill. On Tuesday, Trump did a Fox News Ingraham Angle town hall, and he discussed these possible choices. My colleague Nick Arama noted Trump’s comments on what he would look for in choosing a running mate.

If this standard holds true, then Byron Donalds should now be at the top of his list. Donalds’ Thursday introductory speech at CPAC went beyond setting the stage for the event; it was setting the stage for presidential leadership. Donalds was intelligent, cogent and thoughtful, laying out policy positions with depth, focus, and constitutional principles. Frankly, it sounded like a speech a presidential candidate would make.

When Matt and Mercedes Schlapp introduced Donalds to the stage, it was clear that he has taken the mantle of conservative and Republican Party standard bearer. Donalds speech revealed why he wears this mantle well. Like Trump, Donalds cuts through hierarchical BS and engages the American people on common ground, as equals and allies, not in a paternalistic or imperious fashion. This shone through and produced immediate likability and engagement with the CPAC crowd.

Donalds talked about leadership and how our lack of leadership in this country is at the heart of our problems with healing the divides that plague our nation. 

Donalds brought up President Joe Biden’s abject failure of leadership and how it is making the entire world unsafe. Donalds then used the analogy of the teamwork that Michael Jordan exhibited in order to see the Bulls win their championships. Donalds drew the comparison to our NATO allies, and how as part of a global team, they must step up and do their part. 

Donalds continued on foreign policy, discussing Israel, and the Oct 7 Hamas massacre. Donalds did not mince words on what his stance was and what America’s stance should be. 

Donalds also blamed lack of leadership for America’s neglect of its own hemisphere, and how our focus on internal squabbles is allowing China to achieve the upper hand.

In his CPAC speech on Saturday, Trump talked about the word “conservative” just being synonymous with common sense. The policies Donalds outlined were as sober and commonsense as they come.

Donalds’ foreign policy direction properly dovetailed into the crisis on America’s southern border.

The audience responded with much applause at this line in the sand; a line that much of the GOP Congress refuses to draw. Donalds said that reporters often “clutch the pearls” and ask whether Donalds would be concerned if the government had to close.

Donalds used confrontational language to highlight Biden’s inaction, which received the loudest applause of the speech followed by chants of USA.

Showing again his connection to the audience, he joked, “I love when you chant, CPAC, but you messing up my time, CPAC! I love it.”

An audience member yelled back, “We love you!”

Donalds replied, “I love you too.”

And I believe he truly meant it. Donalds then hit our country’s energy policies, slathering after green energy for green energy’s sake, while rejecting tried, true, and cheaper forms of energy that supply American jobs and allow Americans to thrive, not suffer.

Donalds touched on the two-tiered justice system and the potential for the government to try to implement a digital currency. But the icing on the cake of Donalds’ speech was his articulation of the cultural fight and how the erosion of the family only serves to weaken America.

Even Donalds closing remarks seemed a pitch toward the form of leadership that could be expected under a Trump-Donalds presidency.

In terms of standout leadership, very few in Congress can hold a candle to Byron Donalds. After this speech, Donalds should be standing out as the most quality VP candidate.

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