When Asa Hutchinson took the stage at the Western Conservative Summit (WCS)on Saturday, the circumstances seemed primed for the presidential hopeful to really make a splash. His top rival, former President Trump, had just been indicted on 37 felonies. Now the former Arkansas governor, who just the day before had publicly demanded Trump’s resignation, now had an audience (and a livestream) of several hundred die-hard Republican activists, most of whom will vote in Colorado’s Republican primary next year. This was his chance to let them know just how much better a candidate he would be. Yet Hutchinson didn’t mention Trump at all. Instead, soon after leaving the stage to moderate applause, Hutchinson gave a remote interview to CNN where he once again called on Trump to drop out of the race “for the good of the country.”
The day after his biggest opponent was indicted, GOP Prez hopeful @AsaHutchinson had 2 public speaking appearances. During his 15min on stage at the Western Conservative Summit, he never mentioned Trump. Then he went on CNN and called for DJT’s resignation. #WCS2023 #copolitics pic.twitter.com/ls8J5nsbqF— Erik Maulbetsch (@emaulbetsch) June 10, 2023
The other official GOP presidential candidate on the agenda, radio host and former California gubernatorial recall hopeful Larry Elder, also remained silent on the subject of Trump.
Wyoming Congresswoman Harriet Hageman, who booted former U. S. Rep. Liz Cheney from office over the MAGA crime of impeaching Trump, was one of the only elected officials not running for President who didn’t defend the former Commander-in-Chief. She spent most of her fifteen minutes at the WCS talking about the TV show Yellowstone.
Friday’s evening session featured Colorado’s own Lauren Boebert and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, both of whom leapt to the defense of the Mar-A-Lago martyr.
Boebert closed out Friday with her own defense of Trump, though she focused on the fact that federal investigators also found classified material in the possession of other elected officials.
In case you missed @laurenboebert‘s defense of Trump last night at #WCS23 (and math says you probably did), here it is. In short- “Everyone has classified docs, no biggie. Also, I’m impeaching Biden again.”#copolitics pic.twitter.com/fAi349YGmO— Erik Maulbetsch (@emaulbetsch) June 10, 2023
In addition to dismissing Trump’s indictment, Boebert told the audience of something they could do to help her get reelected: vote early.
“As Republicans we are purists- we want to vote on Election Day and that’s really great because that’s how it should be, but how’s that working out for us? Democrats understand how to win the game because they set the rules,” said Boebert. “It’s time that we play by those same rules if we are going to start seeing results. I’m not telling you to lie, steal or cheat- I’m telling you instead of chasing voters, chase ballots! We have to start voting when voting begins because Democrats vote for weeks and we vote one day for 12 hours. When election day comes they know exactly who to go after and chase. And after I just won by 546 votes I would say that we have some work to do.”
Before returning to Colorado for this recess, Boebert famously arrived late to the House chamber and missed the debt ceiling vote.
Hawley mischaracterized the indictment as Biden’s attempt to jail his political opponent.
“The left is assaulting the very foundations of our American nation,” said Hawley. “They have decided that they no longer believe in the rule of law. Look what happened just yesterday: a former president of the United States indicted! The first time in American history that a sitting president has tried to indict and jail his opponent. All I can say about it is this: if the people in power can put in jail their political opponents we don’t have a republic anymore.”
Hawley spent the rest of his stage time at WCS promoting the Christian Nationalist viewpoint, insisting that Christianity is America’s “national faith” and the Bible is the foundation of the Constitution and all our rights.
Here’s U.S. Senator @HawleyMO leaning in to Christian Nationalism on at #WCS23 “Our national faith…God. Family. Nation. This country was founded on the traditions of the Bible…it’s who we are. it’s what created religious liberty and our system of rights in this country.” pic.twitter.com/g97vWxGv49— Erik Maulbetsch (@emaulbetsch) June 10, 2023
Hawley wasn’t the only one to advocate for theocracy. Dr. Yoram Hazoni, president of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem, said it even more plainly.
“What we really need right now, is states, regions, parts of the country where there is still a Christian majority or at least a pro-Christian majority, said Hazoni. “Where you can put together people who are either Christian or non-Christian, but they’re willing to support a Christian public life, a biblically based public life for the country. We need places where people can see that… I believe that if Christians were running many of the states in this country and they were openly doing so in the name of God and the scripture, if they were doing that I actually think it would be a decent country. I think lots of people could come to a state that was effectively a Christian democracy, a conservative democracy, and they would come and they would see it and they would say ‘you know what I was wrong, I actually think these Christians can run a decent society for everybody.’”
Neither of Colorado’s other GOP Members of Congress, Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn, mentioned Trump in their speeches. Lamborn stuck to foreign policy– mostly China.
Buck primarily explained why he won’t ever vote for an appropriations bill. He also argued that it’s time to raise the retirement age for Social Security since Republicans won’t agree to the Democrats’ proposal of raising the $140,000 salary cap on Social Security tax. Buck’s silence on Trump didn’t last much beyond the Western Conservative Summit, however. This morning he, like Hutchinson, appeared on CNN to discuss the indictment. He didn’t call for Trump’s resignation, but he did say he wouldn’t support him if he’s convicted. He also noted that in 2016 Trump claimed Hillary Clinton was unfit for office because of her mishandling of classified material.
One Coloradan who did address Trump’s indictment was Jenna Ellis, who recently agreed to be formally censured by the Colorado Supreme Court for lying ten separate times about election fraud.
“I want to thank all the liberals & the FBI who are tuning in for our next guest, @JennaEllisEsq!” – @jeffhunt yest at #WCS23. Her defense of Trump was “what about Biden?” In her censure by the CO Bar Assoc, Ellis admitted to lying 10x about election fraud. #copolitics pic.twitter.com/DTEK6AcCmZ— Erik Maulbetsch (@emaulbetsch) June 11, 2023
Ellis, who once taught at CCU, is still a policy fellow with the university’s Centennial Institute, which hosts the WCS.
Like Ellis, Boebert, and Hawley, the Summit’s audience members also demonstrated their continuing support of Trump by giving him the nod in their straw poll, albeit a narrow win over Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
In addition to a standard straw poll, WCS also conducted an “approval voting” poll, in which participants vote for as many candidates as they like. Under this format, Desantis eked out a slender victory.
WCS voters also picked their top issues. “Election integrity,” came out on top, followed closely by “religious freedom” and “parental rights.”