DemDaily: CPAC Kowtows To Trump
March 6, 2023
The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual gathering of the country's most right-wing leaders, wrapped up its fourth day of panels and speakers on Saturday, including some -- but noticeably not all -- 2024 potential presidential contenders.
An appearance at CPAC, hosted by the American Conservative Union (ACU), has long been considered mandatory for any Republican presidential aspirant. Amid the divisions within the GOP driven by those opposed to, or in support of, former President Donald Trump, however, a number of prominent figures skipped what has become a breeding ground for extremists.
Some of those opted instead to attend a competing donor retreat held by the conservative anti-tax group Club for Growth (CFG), one of the biggest outside spenders in Republican politics. CFG poured $2 million into the 2022 reelection campaign of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who headlined their conference this past weekend.
Other CFG speakers included former Vice President Mike Pence, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), and Governors Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Chris Sununu (R-NH). Trump was the only major 2024 hopeful not invited to the group’s Palm Beach event.
Absent from both events was former Maryland Governor and longtime Trump critic Larry Hogan (R), who announced this weekend that he will not be entering the race, saying that “the stakes are too high for me to risk being part of another multicar pileup that could potentially help Mr. Trump recapture the nomination.”
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Also missing from CPAC were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), which may have been due in part to the scandal involving close Trump ally and ACU President Matt Schlapp who is the subject of a sexual assault lawsuit.
The inter-party struggles were also evident in CPAC's highly diminished attendance and the overwhelming preponderance of Trump supporters -- who awarded the former president a 62% 2024 presidential nomination preference in the conference's informal straw poll of attendees. One radio talk show host joked it was not "CPAC" but "TPAC."
Trump's dominance over the event was underscored in the lineup of speakers, which included Lara Trump, Donald Trump Jr., former White House strategist Stephen Bannon, unsuccessful 2022 Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, andSenators J.D. Vance (R-OH) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), along with Congresspersons Jim Jordan (R-OH), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Lauren Boebert (R-CO.) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL).
Former UN Secretary and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who announced her candidacy for president February 14, braved the crowd, despite boos from Trump supporters.
Entrepreneur and author Vivek Ramaswamy, who announced his candidacy February 21, also spoke, as did former Trump Secretary of State and former Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo, who is expected to formally announce his candidacy soon.
Many of the speakers addressed half-empty rooms and vacant seats absent the usual promotional swag provided by major sponsors. Cable news giant Fox Nation bowed out altogether, as did conservative group Turning Point USA.
They were replaced by Trump media allies Newsmax and Real America’s Voice. Lindell TV, headed by "My Pillow" founder and conference speaker Mike Lindell, was also a sponsor.
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Sources: CNN, Washington Post, The Hill, CPAC, New Republic