(FiveNation.com)- The Conservative Political Action Conference used to be the one big conference each year that the top members of the Republican Party attended to rally support for the GOP heading into big elections.
This year, though, two prominent members of the party who are rumored to be launching a 2024 presidential bid soon have both announced they aren’t attending.
Earlier this week, both former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said they wouldn’t be attending CPAC, which is being held in Maryland this week.
The decision isn’t altogether a surprise for Pence, who didn’t attend CPAC last year and declined an invitation that was sent to him back in 2021. This year, Pence also decided to decline an invitation to attend the event.
DeSantis spoke at the CPAC event in 2022, but he already had two previously-scheduled events that he’ll be attending in Texas.
In advance of the CPAC being held, a spokesperson for the organization, Megan Powers, commented on Pence and DeSantis not planning to come to the conference by saying:
“It’s a missed opportunity for any potential presidential candidate to not address the thousands of grassroots activists at CPAC this year. Luckily, CPAC attendees will get to hear from every announced presidential candidates and over 100 premier speakers, including over 30 elected officials.”
CPAC Speakers include former President Donald Trump and Nikki Haley, the former ambassador to the UN during the Trump administration. Both of them have already announced their GOP candidacy for president in 2024.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of the Republican firebrands in the House of Representatives, is scheduled to speak at the conference. It’s been rumored that Greene could be on Trump’s short list of running mates.
Also scheduled to speak is Kari Lake, who ran for governor in Arizona during last year’s midterms but lost. She was backed by Trump and pushed many election fraud claims. Lake will be the speaker at the Reagan dinner, which will be held on Friday night.
In a press release that announced Lake would be speaking, the CPAC praised her as “a rare leader who captured the hearts of conservatives with her honest, bold message including closing the Arizona border and exposing widespread election fraud.”
The bigger story coming out of CPAC, though, is the fact that Pence and DeSantis aren’t showing up. It seems to suggest – or, rather, emphasize – that there is a divide growing within the Republican Party between Trump and his supporters, and everyone else.
One operative within the Republican Party pointed this out when he talked to ABC News recently, saying:
“It shouldn’t come as a surprise that CPAC is not attracting the big names that it once did. There’s a feeling within the Republican Party that CPAC has long abandoned the traditional values that it once stood for.”
CPAC, in essence, has shifted further to the right and is led by Trump, his followers and others who share his vision for the GOP.