CPAC: Trump’s Crowd, Potential Rivals and Civil Suit Controversy

This week, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is taking place at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.[0] It is the year’s most influential gathering of conservative thought leaders and is being branded as Donald Trump’s CPAC, with MAGA hats and Trump merchandise flooding the event.[0] Trump, who has declared his intention to run for a second term in 2024, will be delivering the keynote speech on Saturday evening, while other speakers include House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.[1]

The list of GOP luminaries skipping this year’s event is notable, with potential 2024 presidential candidates like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former vice president Mike Pence declining to attend this year, as did House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.[2] DeSantis is instead due to address a Club for Growth event for donors in Palm Beach, Florida.[3]

The CPAC straw poll will be a key indicator of how much support the former president has among the Republican grassroots.[4] So far, Trump has easily won the poll, with Haley, who served as Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, coming in second.[5] Mike Pompeo, a former secretary of state and potential candidate, also addressed the crowd.[6]

The American Conservative Union (ACU), which is responsible for organizing the event, has been subject to heightened criticism due to Matt Schlapp’s leadership of the organization.[7] Schlapp is facing a civil suit in Virginia alleging defamation and battery.[8] He denies the allegations.[3]

It remains to be seen how much Trump will attack his potential rivals in his speech.[9] Pompeo, while speaking at the event, took a thinly veiled shot at Trump, but his comments drew little reaction from the crowd.[10]

DeSantis, who is widely viewed as Trump’s biggest threat to the Republican nomination, has already been the target of Trump and his campaign, who have referred to him as “Ron DeSanctimonious” and run Facebook ads showing a photo of DeSantis and Trump with the caption: “Pictured: An Apprentice Learning from the Master.[11]

0. “The 10 Most Ridiculous CPAC Events” Rolling Stone, 3 Mar. 2023,

1. “Watch live: Trump, Bolsonaro and more take the stage on Day 3 of CPAC” The Hill, 4 Mar. 2023,

2. “OnPolitics: Trump headlines CPAC, DeSantis opts for donor retreat” USA TODAY, 1 Mar. 2023,

3. “Donald Trump Makes Big CPAC 2023 Speech Under Pressure” Newsweek, 4 Mar. 2023,

4. “Trump gets rapturous reception at major US Republican conference” The Telegraph, 4 Mar. 2023,

5. “Trump’s CPAC domination yields a chilly reception for rivals” NBC News, 4 Mar. 2023,

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

7. “CPAC is now all about Trump’s grip on the Republican Party”, 3 Mar. 2023,

8. “Why does CPAC seem extra weird this year?” Grid, 4 Mar. 2023,

9. “Trump, DeSantis rival events accent US Republican divide” Al Jazeera English, 3 Mar. 2023,

10. “At CPAC, election deniers thrive and the Trump train chugs ahead” The Boston Globe, 4 Mar. 2023,

11. “Trump speaks at CPAC after winning straw poll” CBS News, 4 Mar. 2023,

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