Quite a Few Notable Republicans Are Skipping CPAC This Year
CPAC used to be a premier event for Republicans. Now it’s looking more like a Donald Trump fan party.
The Conservative Political Action Conference kicked off this week, minus a few noteworthy faces.
The annual gathering was once considered a premier event for Republicans and a must-do for anyone considering a presidential run. But this year, the event has been overshadowed by sexual assault allegations against Matt Schlapp, head of the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC. A staffer on Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign has accused Schlapp of groping him without consent. Schlapp has denied the allegations but has yet to address them at CPAC, during which he is speaking multiple times, along with his wife and one of his children.
Another reason many notable Republicans are staying away from CPAC could be that it has turned into more of a Donald Trump fan party, which seems to have turned off many of the people seeking to challenge him in 2024.
Chief among them is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is predicted to be Trump’s main contender for the Republican presidential nomination. DeSantis, who seems to be busy curtailing human rights in his state, will instead be at a retreat hosted by the Club for Growth, a conservative economics organization.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is also reportedly considering a presidential run, will similarly be at the Club for Growth event. Pence has tried to walk a fine line recently of distancing himself from Trump enough to appeal to potential moderate supporters, but not so much that he alienates his former boss’s most loyal fanbase.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will not be at CPAC, which comes as a surprise given all his efforts to stay in Trump’s good graces. Neither will Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has become a Trump critic despite using the former president to push through conservative judges and legislation.
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel won’t be there, either. Trump backed her run for reelection as RNC head, but McDaniel announced Sunday that all Republican presidential candidates would be required to sign a pledge to support the eventual nominee, no matter who, in order to be allowed onto the debate stage. In response to McDaniel, Trump’s campaign spokeswoman told CNN that Trump “will support the Republican nominee because it will be him.”
These absences could be a sign that some of the Republican Party is turning on Trump, who will be the closing speaker at CPAC on Saturday. The event seems to be turning into a glorified Trump rally. In 2021, CPAC unveiled a golden statue of the former president for attendees to take selfies with, and the 2023 speaker lineup has been packed with Trump loyalists, including Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan, Donald Trump Jr., and even Jair Bolsonaro.
However, Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, both of whom are running against Trump in 2024, and Mike Pompeo and Tim Scott, who are reportedly considering running, will speak at CPAC. All four of these candidates are considered extreme long shots, so they could be trying to peel support away from Trump over the course of the event.