NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley made her pitch for generational change and a more inclusive GOP to party activists Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
“America is not past our prime,” Haley said. “It’s just that our politicians are past theirs. It is time we had term limits once and for all in Washington, D.C.”
The former governor of South Carolina and ambassador to the United Nations described herself as “a brown girl in a black and white world” who believes in “the promise of America.”
“Take it from me, the first minority female governor in history: America is not a racist country,’’ Haley said.
Haley was one of two declared candidates for president to address the conference Friday outside of Washington; the other was biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is considering a run, also spoke, while former President Donald Trump, the favorite of many CPAC stalwarts, will take the stage Saturday.
Some CPAC attendees were indifferent to Haley’s message. Others were downright hostile.
“I would not vote for her because I believe that she stabbed Trump in the back,” said Marcia Baratta, a 67-year-old registered nurse from Delaware. “He made her an ambassador and gave her a really good job … I don’t trust her.”
Greene called for criminalizing gender-affirming care for young people and claimed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “wants our sons and daughters to go die in Ukraine.” Gaetz called for the abolition of the FBI, CDC and ATF.
Donalds: Broaden message
But other speakers struck a different tone. Rep. Byron Donalds, a Republican from Florida who is considered a rising star within the GOP, said the party must broaden its message.
“It’s not good enough just to talk to conservatives, it’s not good enough just to talk to Republicans,’’ said Donalds, who was the choice of a handful of his colleagues for House speaker in January until Kevin McCarthy secured the position.
Republican policies on education, crime prevention and support for small businesses resonate with Black and Latino voters, said Donalds, who is Black.
“We have to take our message to all areas of our country,’’ he said. “We have to take the message to urban communities, we have to show them what could be done right.”
Hector Garced of White Plains, N.Y., said he’s been following Donalds’ career and likes what he sees. “His message is correct,’’ Garced said. “It would be terrific if most of the speakers here today — instead of being like-minded people — were folks from the other side instead of just preaching to the choir.”
Garced, 73, said he also liked what he heard from Haley, but he’s “200 percent” behind Trump.
“He’s a real estate investor, and so am I, and we’re both from New York, so he’s my candidate all the way,’’ Garced said. “ All the trash they talk about him, it’s just trash.’’