The couple escaped to their Virginia farm, where they say that Viana, their eldest daughter, mentioned what they had said all along: Despite Mr. Trump’s personal failings, the Clintons posed the greater danger to the nation.
Ever since, Mr. Schlapp said, “we’ve been all-in.” But he said he still can’t bear to watch his televised defense of Mr. Trump that day.
Mr. Trump appeared at CPAC as president in 2017 and in February was again the star of the three-day conference, attended by about 10,000 people and underwritten by a multitude of sponsors and exhibitors, some of them former Cove Strategies clients. While Mr. Schlapp said not all participants are pro-Trump, prominent “Never Trump” conservatives like John Kasich, George Will and Bill Kristol were not invited to speak. Mona Charen, a conservative writer, was booed and escorted out by security for her safety after she criticized pro-Trump Republicans’ failure to condemn the president’s sexual predations.
‘I’m Not Delusional’
At the Tex-Mex restaurant, the couple had paused to pray before dinner. How do they square their faith and values with their support for the man on the “Access Hollywood” tape?
“I’m not delusional on who Donald Trump is,” Mr. Schlapp said. “But I think there’s great virtue in the fact that he aggressively fights for the things I care about.”
“Everyone assumes that Donald Trump changed our politics, that Donald Trump has perhaps coarsened our society,” he said. “My view is that he’s a function of what’s happening in society.”
Ms. Schlapp karate-chopped the table for emphasis, and the cutlery jingled.
“I always think back about Matt’s sister, whose husband lost his job,” she said. “They live in the Midwest; he was in the oil industry for a long time. I remember when the whole Donald Trump phenomenon happened she said, ‘I want to send a message to you people in Washington.’”
“She said it was a ‘screw you’ message,” Mr. Schlapp interjected.
At home recently, the Schlapps prepared for a night out while pondering their status as political lightning rods. “Are we?” Ms. Schlapp asked her husband. “Maybe you are.” He laughed uneasily.
“I don’t have that many friends left,” Mr. Schlapp said.
Ms. Schlapp smiled. “We have each other,” she said.
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