CPAC 2021: Trump’s Undisputed Influence and High Profile GOP No-Shows

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is taking place this week in Washington, D.C., and while many influential Republican leaders will be there, some of the biggest names in the GOP are opting out.[0] Former Vice President Mike Pence has declined an invitation, and former President Donald Trump will be the undoubted star of the show.[1] However, the conference will be taking place in the shadow of a serious public relations crisis, as one of its main organizers, Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, is accused of sexual assault by a former staffer for Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign.[2]

The staffer has sued Schlapp and his wife Mercedes for nearly $10 million, alleging that Schlapp groped him during a car ride.[3] Both Schlapp and his wife have vehemently denied the accusations.[4] Despite the scandal, CPAC will still feature a slew of prominent speakers, including confirmed GOP presidential hopefuls Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, as well as Trump himself.

Other high-profile Republicans, like former Vice President Mike Pence, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have declined to attend the event.[5] It is a missed opportunity for potential candidates to address the thousands of grassroots activists at CPAC.[6] Trump is likely to make a big impact among his staunchest supporters, and his address will be closely analyzed for any veiled critiques of the former president.[7]

CPAC has long been the “springboard” for the presidential primary season, and Trump’s influence is such that he remains the “undisputed political leader” of the conference.[2] Bill Maher, host of Real Time, has also expressed his personal fear of a second Trump presidency, saying that “I understand why” the former president might not like him. The Conservative Political Action Conference is sure to be an event full of controversy, and the outcome of this year’s gathering may speak volumes about the direction of the Republican Party going forward.

0. “CPAC returns to D.C. after a two-year pandemic absence” WORLD News Group, 1 Mar. 2023,

1. “Mike Pence declines invitation to CPAC as event’s leader comes under fire” ABC News, 24 Feb. 2023,

2. “Trump is poised for a CPAC love fest or face plant. There is no in between.” POLITICO, 1 Mar. 2023,

3. “Playbook: How MAGA took over CPAC – POLITICO” POLITICO, 2 Mar. 2023,

4. “Trump supporter Matt Schlapp avoids questions on groping allegations as CPAC kicks off” The Independent, 2 Mar. 2023,

5. “Opinion | How CPAC, once a GOP magnet, turned into a circus with Trump as ringmaster” The Washington Post, 2 Mar. 2023,

6. “CPAC Has a Major Fox News Problem” The Daily Beast, 27 Feb. 2023,

7. “What to expect from this year’s CPAC: Biden bashing, 2024 Republican primary chatter and lawsuit gossip” The Guardian US, 26 Feb. 2023,

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