Donald Trump is an eternal favorite among the political junkies who comprise much of the audience at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
By contrast to the long line of politicians he follows on the dais, the real-estate magnate seems refreshingly candid. The audience here laughs at his jokes and encourages his bombast.
“I saw Tiger Woods this morning, Ernie Els, and Phil Mickelson, and I told them I’m going to CPAC,” he said as he took the podium on Thursday. The crowd cheered. He mentioned that he’d been to Moscow recently, because he owns the Miss Universe Pageant, of course, and picked up a trick or two for dealing with the country’s dictator, Vladimir Putin, who has caused so many problems for President Obama in recent weeks.
“We have so many problems with so little leadership,” Trump said ruefully.
The Trump Organization chairman also addressed the economy, calling the unemployment statistic issued by the government each month a “phony” number.
“The 6.7 percent is probably 21 or 22 percent in real numbers,” he said of the nation’s unemployment rate. (That number ticked down further, to 6.6 percent, in January.) “When you give up looking for a job, it’s like they consider you employed,” he continued. “It’s amazing.”
The economy’s lackluster performance on President Obama’s watch elicited from Trump a comparison that was made several times during the course of today’s events: He likened the 44th president to the 39th, telling the crowd, “I think next month we will have surpassed the late, great Jimmy Carter.”
But Trump wasn’t all doom and gloom. He predicted that Republicans will take control of the Senate in the midterm elections and that the GOP can beat Hillary Clinton if they nominate the right candidate in 2016.
“The bottom line is very simple,” he concluded. “Make America strong again, make America great again. We have such unbelievable potential; we have to use it. We need the right leaders.”