Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses a keynote speech during an extraordinary session of the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Balna cultural centre of Budapest, Hungary on May 19, 2022.
Dallas CNN  — 

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban won over the crowd at CPAC Texas on Thursday, arguing that his nationalist agenda in Hungary aligns with the goals of the American conservative movement – and sounding a lot like the conference’s upcoming Saturday keynote speaker, former President Donald Trump.

The right-wing European leader hit guaranteed applause lines – including telling the Texas crowd that “Hungary is the Lone Star State of Europe” – and criticizing liberals, the news media and the Democratic Party.

Trump, who is weighing when to announce his expected third run for the Republican presidential nomination, will give the final speech of the multiday CPAC Texas, an offshoot of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. The confab began Thursday and is organized by the American Conservative Union.

Among the others slated to appear in Dallas are Republican elected officials and GOP candidates in the upcoming midterm elections.

CPAC and its organizers remain friendly to Trump, and the conservative activist attendees have been overwhelmingly supportive of his political future. He has easily won the informal straw polls held at events like this since leaving office, including at the 2022 CPAC in February and the 2021 CPAC Texas last summer.

Yet Trump’s speech comes as his position within the broader GOP is strong but slightly diminished. Months of uneven results for his preferred candidates in Republican primaries have shown small cracks in his otherwise overwhelming loyalty among GOP voters. And the summer’s televised hearings by the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol have highlighted the public case against Trump’s actions ahead and during the riot.

Since then, Trump has seen others emerge as potential rivals for the Republican nomination in 2024 – including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence.

Neither DeSantis nor Pence will be speaking this week, but other potential GOP candidates for president are scheduled to appear, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who is running for a third term in November, and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rick Scott of Florida.

Also appearing will be several Republican candidates on the ballot in the November midterms, including Senate nominee J.D. Vance of Ohio, gubernatorial candidates Kari Lake of Arizona and Tudor Dixon of Michigan, and House candidate Sarah Palin of Alaska – all of whom were endorsed by Trump.

Orban’s appeal to conservatives

Among the more controversial figures invited to speak at CPAC Texas is Orban, who has been embraced by elements of the American conservative movement in recent years.

The nationalist European leader has pushed forth restrictive immigration policies and clamped down on democratic institutions in Hungary while consolidating his own power.

In his Thursday afternoon address in Dallas, Orban argued that his nationalist agenda in Hungary aligns with the goals of the American conservative movement – sounding a lot like Trump.

“Progressive liberals didn’t want me to be here because they knew what I would tell you, because I am here to tell you that we should unite our forces,” Orban said.

Orban has also faced condemnation for remarks seen as racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic. Last month in Romania, Orban delivered a speech that a longtime aide denounced as a “pure Nazi text” in her subsequent resignation letter.

While he largely stayed away from that sort of inflammatory rhetoric in Dallas, he did mock the criticism of him being racist and anti-Semitic. “A Christian politician cannot be racist,” Orban said.

Orban defended his 16-year tenure as prime minister, touting his hardline immigration policies and his calling his fight against democratic institutes part of a “culture war,” going after same-sex marriage and transgender rights.

Prompting the loudest standing ovation of his speech, Orban said: “To sum up: the mother is a woman, the father is a man, and leave our kids alone. Full stop, end of discussion.”

Orban’s nationalist rhetoric has won him some admirers among conservatives in the United States, including Trump, who met with Orban recently at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club. Trump endorsed Orban’s bid for another term earlier this year and has repeatedly praised the Hungarian leader – including during a 2019 visit to the White House.

Another fan of Orban’s is Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who traveled to the Central European country last year and anchored his show from Budapest. And earlier this year, Orban praised Carlson during a speech at CPAC Hungary, an event in Budapest co-sponsored by the ACU.

This headline and story have been updated with additional details.