Trumpalooza: CPAC Lineup Suggests Hardcore Conservatives Not Ready To Move On Just Yet
Conspicuously absent from the bill is the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis.
The 2023 Conservative Political Action Conference is set to kick off on Wednesday with a lineup suggesting that the conference will be an unapologetic celebration of President Trump.
This year’s list of CPAC speakers will include all three of the official candidates in the 2024 Republican primary — the former governor of South Carolina and ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley; activist Vivek Ramaswamy; and Mr. Trump. Of these three candidates, only Mr. Trump is seen as having a clear path to the nomination.
While the conference will be a major opportunity for the candidates to show that they can go toe-to-toe with the former president, they will be almost the only critics of the former president in the lineup.
Conspicuously absent from the bill is the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, who is expected to seek the 2024 Republican nomination and, according to the polls, is the most serious challenger to Mr. Trump.
While Republicans and conservative activists gather at National Harbor, Maryland, to ostensibly set the agenda for the conservative movement, Mr. DeSantis will be advancing his own plans.
Mr. DeSantis, who spoke at CPAC last year, will be visiting with donors in Texas and California and touting his new book out Tuesday, “The Courage to Be Free.”
Other scheduled speakers include Senators Cruz, Vance, and Blackburn, as well as Representatives Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Green, Ronny Jackson, Jim Jordan, Scott Perry, and Elise Stefanik.
A few highlights from a draft agenda obtained by the Epoch Times include a talk on “How to Rile Up Conservatives” and speeches titled “Big Tech – Break ‘em Up, Bust ‘em Up, Put ‘em in Jail,” “The New Axis of Evil: Soros, Schwab, and Fink,” and “They Stole it From Us Legally.”
There will also be others from Mr. Trump’s orbit, like a former White House press secretary, Sean Spicer; a Trump housing secretary, Ben Carson, a Truth Social executive, Devin Nunes, Mr. Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and his fiancé, Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former San Francisco prosecutor.
A failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate and who is a vocal proponent of claims that the 2020 and 2022 elections were stolen, Kari Lake, will be speaking at Friday’s Reagan dinner.
“I’m speaking at CPAC this year, I’m really excited, you know CPAC is just a great place for conservatives to come together,” Ms. Lake told reporters. “I’m a big believer that the majority of Americans are conservatives.”
Vice President Pence, another potential 2024 candidate, declined his invitation to the conference. He also declined to attend in 2022 and 2021.
This year, the leaders of the conference have been distracted by scandal, with allegations of sexual assault arising against CPAC’s organizer, Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union.
A Republican staffer from football star Herschel Walker’s unsuccessful 2022 Senate bid in Georgia filed a lawsuit in January alleging that, without consent, Mr. Schlapp “began aggressively fondling Mr. Doe’s genital area in a sustained fashion” after a dinner attended by the two men.
Mr. Schlapp has denied the claims and said that the anonymous complaint “demonstrates the accuser’s real agenda, working in concert with Daily Beast to attack and harm the Schlapp family.”
The allegations may also affect the way that CPAC is received by the conservative press, particularly Fox News. The Daily Beast reports that there have been no on-air mentions of the conference since the allegations became public.
The silence is in stark contrast to the wide coverage Fox News gave to the conference last year. The news channel has also been a financial backer of the conference in the past, paying $28,000 to sponsor the event in 2021 and $250,000 in 2022.
Democrats will also be meeting in Maryland this Wednesday, as House Democrats attend their annual policy retreat in Baltimore — a meeting at which President Biden will speak.
Senate Democrats will hold their Democratic Caucus lunch on Tuesday, suggesting both parties will end the week with a renewed focus in their messaging.