From the outside, Donald Trump seems like an unlikely CPAC attendee. He's not the first person that comes to mind when one thinks of a conservative convention. But Trump does bring one thing to the table: showmanship. He's the master of self-promotion and bravado. Let's face it, even in the world of conservative politics, celebrity matters.
Donald Trump first spoke at CPAC in 2011 when he was considering running for the President. One thing about Trump, he is divisive. When he spoke in 2011, the room was packed. Everyone was clamoring to hear his speech, and his appearance was met with a mixture of boos and cheers. Trump makes noise wherever he goes. This is why he plays well at a crowd like CPAC. He attracts attention. Whether it's good or bad, attention is press and publicity.
Trump also plays well at CPAC because he is such an outspoken critic of President Obama. This has in itself turned him into a someone conservatives like, even they're not crazy about him personally.
But his posturing before the 2012 election in offering Obama a $5 million donation to a charity of his choice for the release of Obama's college transcripts and passport records was pure sport. No doubt many conservatives were cheering from the sidelines, hoping Obama would take the bait.
Trump is obnoxious in his overtures and his arrogance knows no bounds. But in spite of his offer to Obama, which was slammed by the media and ignored by the President, I felt Trump had a point. This kind of stunt is what Trump does best. And while conservatives may groan when they hear his name, they secretly don't mind the attention that comes with Donald Trump. He is surely to bring some of the spotlight with him to CPAC.
After Trump decided not to run in 2012, he said, "I made a mistake in not running because I think I would have won." This is very doubtful Trump. He did throw his support behind Mitt Romney, who had a much better chance of winning the presidency than Trump ever did. But every conservative came out the loser on election night.
However, coming into CPAC this year, Trump has already made controversial statements. He has weighed in on the Rand Paul filibuster, saying he feels it "did nothing." This will not win him any points at CPAC this year given the fact that Paul's filibuster ignited a fuse amongst conservatives. But regardless of what he said, Trump will still be a spectacle and draw a crowd.
Trump and conservatives seem like oil and water, a science experiment gone awry. But Trump brings a touch of celebrity to CPAC and other conservative venues, something Democrats have more than enough of and conservatives desperately seek. Even if Trump isn't the highest caliber of celebrity, he still knows how to get attention. It's publicity he will get, even if it's for all the wrong reasons.