The dust-up showed the risks of taking the primary fight to what has become Trump’s home turf. While CPAC has long been seen as a big tent for the conservative movement and a mandatory cattle call for presidential hopefuls, the annual convention has increasingly become a rallying point for the 45th president and his “Make America Great Again” faction. GOP. Trump will speak at the event on Saturday.
“Remember, you’re not at CPAC, you’re at TPAC,” John Fredericks, a pro-Trump talk radio host, said in an interview Wednesday. He said the 2024 contenders would prefer to skip the convention rather than lose by fanfare or straw polls. “This thing belongs to us, it’s ours,” he said. “No Trump, No CPAC.”
Laura Trump, Donald Trump Jr., former White House strategist Stephen K. This year’s lineup was heavy with Trump family members and allies losing Bannon, 2022 Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, Sens. JD Vance (R-Ohio) and Ted. Cruz (R-Tex.), and Reps. Other voices in the party — Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) — were almost entirely excluded. .
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, though he has yet to announce whether he is running as Trump’s biggest challenger in 2024, wanted to spend a week away at his own events promoting his new book.
In past years, campaigns-in-waiting have organized to pack the event with supporters, hoping for strong showings in an informal survey of attendees known as CPAC straw polls. Trump beat DeSantis 59 percent to 28 percent in a straw poll last year and slightly widened his advantage last August at CPAC in Texas, 64 percent to 24 percent.
Privately, Trump supporters agree that anything less than a double-digit margin in the polls this year would be an embarrassing result for the former president. As for DeSantis, Republican strategists including Karl Rove praised the governor for going his own way rather than letting Trump compete in the CPAC straw poll.
Ronald Solomon, president of conservative product wholesaler “MAGA Mall,” draped folding tables at the crowd with Trump-themed flags, hats and other language. At the end of the scene, he lined up the DeSantis hats. They are not his biggest sellers, he explained. Trump outsells DeSantis by about 50 to one, he said of hat sales.
CPAC’s association with Trump contributed to a shrinking footprint at this year’s convention when he helped boost several candidates who lost in key races at a time when his hold on the party was less certain than the GOP’s poor performance in the 2022 midterms. The event was shrouded in scandal after CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp was accused of sexual misconduct, which he has denied. The organization is grappling with employee layoffs and pending discrimination complaints, The Washington Post has learned.
This week’s conference numbers were evident in the sparsely packed ballroom and exhibit hall. The Fox Nation streaming service did not return as a sponsor this year, giving the media lineup to scrappier, trumpier upstarts like Newsmax and The Real Voice of America. The showroom will feature several Trump apparel vendors, a booth for the John Birch Society and a Jan. 6, 2021 Riots at the US Capitol featured two organizations advocating for defendants.
In the exciting exhibition halls, MAGA Inc. Owned by a so-called pro-Trump super PAC, it has set up a mock Oval Office where fans can have their picture taken in a Trumpian pose, and a studio set up to broadcast live podcasts featuring Trump. Jr., his fiancée, Kimberly Guilfoyle, and former Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whittaker. During his speech on the main stage, Trump Jr. said he had golden tickets for a special reception with the former president hidden under some seats.
Part of the ballroom was partitioned off and parts of the floor were left bare. Even so, only half the seats were filled when Haley took the stage.
The audience stood up for Haley, giving her a polite but lukewarm reception. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Haley presents her upbringing as “proof that liberals are wrong about everything they say about America” and that “America is not a racist country.” He cited former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as one of his heroes and called China “the strongest and most disciplined adversary we have ever faced.”
Haley earned her loudest applause for calling for an end to foreign aid to “countries that hate America,” echoing a statement she made earlier that misrepresented the process of U.S. foreign aid, which often goes to U.S. companies or never leaves the country.
One of those who joined in the heckling after Haley spoke was Kim Shortz, who questioned Haley’s conservative credentials and called her a “Rhino.” Shortz, who lives in Virginia, planned to vote for Trump in the primary and scoffed at the idea that Haley might be a running mate.
Some say “Hayley!” They shouted back. Answer to Karma.
Joseph Stilwell, a college student planning to vote for Trump, had an autograph from Haley on his convention badge when the heckling began. He said “Shut up!” He found himself chanting at women. “You don’t act like that,” he said.
As Haley got into the elevator with her staff, Jay Denny, identified as a conservative from Canada, said to her: “Canada loves you, Nikki.” He said the shouting was “absolutely unacceptable”.
Another potential 2024 contender, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, received a warm early reception but generated little excitement with a speech that focused on Haley’s biography and policies, as opposed to her red-meat social issues. He avoided criticizing Trump directly, with only one oblique reference to “popular leaders” with “sad egos who refuse to acknowledge the truth.”
In the absence of DeSantis, at least one participant showed no interest in weighing. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez deflected a reporter’s questions and focused on Trump.
“I have no comment on that,” he said of DeSantis. “I’m here to talk about Miami.” Asked who he supported in the CPAC straw poll, Suarez laughed at himself.