[guest post by Dana]
The Republican conference known as Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) kicked off yesterday. The conference provides a platform for conservative luminaries, as well as announced and yet unannounced presidential candidates to speak to friendly audiences, schmooze, and convince voters that they should be taken seriously. This year’s lineup is unique for several reasons. It is a clear reminder that the Republican Party remains solidly in the grip of Donald Trump and the MAGA wing of the Party, and it’s notable for who will not be in attendance.
While Donald Trump is the headline speaker, Kari Lake, who legitimately lost her election in Arizona last year, will be the featured speaker at the high-profile Ronald Reagan Dinner. Just last month at Mar-a-Lago, Trump sang the failed candidate’s praises when he told an audience that: “[Lake] ran a great race in Arizona, she won, she won by a lot.” Along with Trump and Lake, Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert are also slated to speak. But given that Trump is heading the show, it’s not surprising to see a roster of MAGA speakers. However, what is surprising is that Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has not yet officially announced a run for the presidency but has given every indication that he will, is not on the agenda. While it’s still early days, polling has consistently shown that if DeSantis was running, he would be Donald Trump’s strongest competitor. In some cases, he has had even better polling numbers than Trump. However, a new YouGov poll now gives Trump a solid lead over DeSantis:
A new Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows that after trailing for the last three months, former President Donald Trump has suddenly surged to a substantial lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in a two-man matchup for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
President Donald Trump has suddenly surged to a substantial lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in a two-man matchup for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
Previously, DeSantis led Trump 45% to 41% among Republican voters. Now Trump leads DeSantis 47% to 39% — a net swing of 12 percentage points in Trump’s direction since early February.
Clearly, DeSantis isn’t skipping the popular confab for um, scheduling conflicts. I think it’s more than that. Schedules can be rearranged. I also don’t think it’s because of an unfavorable poll. So, what does he have to lose by attending? Well, it could be that he doesn’t want to risk losing a popularity contest with Trump before he has announced his candidacy. Let’s face it, the optics of DeSantis not besting Trump in the traditional CPAC straw poll certainly wouldn’t help his cause:
Rather than going to CPAC — which is a completely pro-Donald Trump crowd and having a number at the end that weekend where he’s made an appearance, and then there’s a straw poll and Trump wins the straw poll — rather than that, what’s he doing? He’s going to Dallas and Houston, Texas, and Orange County, California and speaking to the Republican county committees,” Karl Rove said.
“They’re big galas in each one of those places, making a lot of friends and avoiding what is going to be a sure story at the end of it. ‘Oh, well, he came here and he obviously didn’t make a big impact, because Trump still took the CPAC straw poll,’ which is completely meaningless but nonetheless would be the story coming out of the weekend.”
Along with the popular DeSantis being a CPAC no-show, Mike Pence, Tim Scott, Glenn Youngkin and Kristi Noem will also not be attending the event:
The Club for Growth…is holding a closed-door retreat for donors who will hear from a number of Republican presidential possibilities.
Pence is expected to be there, according to a Club For Growth schedule, as is Haley. Other possible presidential candidates attending the retreat include Tim Scott, Ted Cruz, Rick Scott, Chris Sununu, and Vivek Ramaswamy. (Cruz, Ramaswamy and Rick Scott also are scheduled to speak at CPAC.)
Another reason that some Republican luminaries may be avoiding the CPAC confab is that they don’t want to be associated with Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union which sponsors CPAC, and currently faces accusations of sexual misconduct.
But as far as Trump is concerned, he claims that the no-shows simply have nothing new to offer voters:
“The only reason certain ‘candidates’ won’t be going to CPAC is that the crowds have no interest in anything they have to say,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform on Thursday. “They’ve heard it all before, and don’t want to hear it again. But my speech, on Saturday night, is already a sold out ‘monster.’” Trump told attendees that his headline speech is going to be “about the fact that, obviously, our Country is going to ‘HELL,’ and how to fix it.”
On Truth Social, Trump provided a preview of his Saturday night speech. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like we’ve heard it all before. Many times over, in fact:
Trump will be “talking about the fact that, obviously, our Country is going to ‘HELL,’ and how to fix it.”
“Also, the Democrats use of Radical Left Prosecutors and the WEAPONIZATION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT. It is illegal, has never been used and abused like this, and has the potential to bring down our once fair and wonderful Country. These Marxist Thugs have been after me for years, only to help them win elections. In just Two Years, we have become a Third World Failing Nation.”
Should be a heckuva night.