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Updated at 8:10 p.m. ET
Just a month after leaving office, Donald Trump on Sunday broke with the practices of past former presidents and took on the man who beat him in the 2020 election.
During a keynote address that lasted an hour and a half — and began more than an hour late — in Orlando, Fla., to the friendly Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, Trump blasted Biden’s tenure so far.
He called it “the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history,” hitting Biden on many fronts — from immigration to national security to Biden’s pandemic response.
The main thrust of Trump’s criticism, though, was on immigration policy. He claimed Biden was “eliminating our [southern] border,” triggering “a massive flood of illegal immigration” that was letting criminals pour out onto U.S. streets.
It was similar to the dark and nativist anti-immigration vision that helped launch Trump to political prominence in the first place, from his 2015 presidential campaign announcement.
Trump called on Biden to reopen schools, which closed down during Trump’s tenure due to the pandemic, saying that Biden “caved to the teacher’s unions.”
“They’re cheating the next generation of Americans out of the future that they deserve and they do deserve this future,” Trump said. “They’re going to grow up and they’re going to have a scar.”
Biden has said his goal is to have the majority of schools open for in-person learning within the first 100 days of his administration.
The former president did not save his ire exclusively for his successor. He maintained the false conspiracy that he actually won the 2020 election, and, despite picking three of its current members, blasted the U.S. Supreme Court for not siding with him, saying the justices should be “ashamed.”
Trump said he would not be starting a third party. He called for unity in the Republican Party, and said he would work to elect Republicans — in his mold. But he called out Republicans by name who have opposed him.
He teased that he could run again in 2024 — “Who knows?” he said, furthering his false election claims of victory, “I may even decide to beat them [Democrats] for the third time.”
Trump lost the 2020 Electoral College vote and the popular vote by 7 million overall. Dozens of courts threw out his and his allies’ frivolous claims of election fraud in multiple states, and his own administration called 2020 the “most secure” election in history.
The former president easily topped the conference’s annual straw poll. Fifty-five percent of CPAC attendees said they would vote for Trump in a 2024 Republican presidential primary in their state if it took place today.
Notably, however, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis finished second with 21%. CPAC was held in DeSantis’ home state, but he has gained more 2024 buzz recently, topping figures in his home state, like Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. That comes despite DeSantis struggling in his handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
With Trump not on the ballot, DeSantis was the top choice, followed by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. Both made speeches this weekend and were received warmly.
Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri did not fare as well, polling at 2% and 1%, respectively, with the crowd — despite the attention they have gotten for their objections to the 2020 election results.
But any movement in the GOP field is effectively frozen with Trump dangling that he may very well run again.