Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
This year’s installment of the Conservative Political Action Conference — the right’s annual pep rally, platform builder, and fan convention — won’t have quite the star power of 2022, but there is no shortage of storylines to follow in the coming days.
Emanating this year from the greater Washington, D.C., area, the conference will lack such top Republican figures as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, former Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
However, event co-chair Matt Schlapp has promised to open the conference to a plurality of voices, including some liberals.
“We’re the tolerant ones,” Schlapp told Just the News. “We’re going to have Jennifer Palmieri from the show ‘The Circus’ coming to CPAC. I know people don’t agree with her politics, but she’s going to ask Ric Grenell some questions and my guess is they’re going to have some commonality about not wanting to engage in every aspect of the globe and being interventionist.”
It would be inaccurate to label CPAC, the full agenda for which can be found here, as having been designed to put all prerogatives on an equal footing. The star power is aligned heavily to the right, specifically the camp of former President Donald Trump.
Trump will headline the event, speaking last on Saturday night, and the bulk of key speeches will come from people solidly allied with Trump.
Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Elise Stafanik, and Matt Gaetz will each give a speech as well as Florida Sen. Rick Scott and Missouri Sen. Eric Schmitt. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Rep Jim Jordan will also make appearances.
Moments when potentially anti-Trump voices occupy the stage alone will be few and far in between but, in fairness to CPAC’s organizers, all three current presidential candidates will be platformed.
Both Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, the two candidates who thus far comprise Trump’s competition in the Republican primary, are slated to appear, and it will bear watching what each says and, of equal importance, how they are received.
Haley is slated to deliver her speech at 12:45 p.m. Eastern on Friday, with Ramaswamy to follow at 3:45.
Trump, too, bears much attention. His Saturday-night speech figures to draw the biggest rating and most attention among pundits, and all ears will be on how or if he addresses his current or potential Republican presidential opponents and current legal battles.
OTHER KEY STORYLINES
Beyond the obvious intrigue of seeing how the earliest portion of the 2024 presidential race plays out, and seeing just how diverse the CPAC organizers were able to make their conference, there are numerous other potentially important topics to follow.
First, the most anticipated speech of the year might not come from Trump. The person everyone wants to hear from is recently resigned Project Veritas Founder James O’Keefe, who will make live remarks for the first time since being pressured out of his position in what has been described as a hostile takeover.
O’Keefe, who made a name for himself by dropping CPAC news bombshells on an almost annual basis, is slated to speak at 9:40 a.m. Eastern on Saturday.
Another much-anticipated speaker will be former President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro, who will address the CPAC crowd at 2:05 p.m. Eastern on Saturday. This will be the first major appearance for Bolsonaro since political activists ransacked Brazil’s top government buildings.
Much like any other year, a major storyline of CPAC is discovering who, among the dozens of speakers, will best boost their national footprint with a particularly strong showing.
A year ago, the likes of North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and Florida Rep. Byron Donalds made major leaps with their CPAC performances.
This year, there are several up-and-coming stars of the Republican Party who can do the same.
Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears and newly elected Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance will have a golden opportunity to build on solid momentum, but the big leap can, as always, come from anywhere.
Finally, in keeping with CPAC tradition, it will be interesting to see who wins CPAC from a public speaking/entertainment value standpoint. If CPAC is a pep rally, it’s worth noting who stirs the crowd.
In 2022, Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy gave a stump speech for the ages and left the CPAC stage to a raucous ovation. He is back in 2023 but will face some competition from the likes of conservative pundit Candance Owens, the final speaker on Thursday night, and British politician-turned-commentator Nigel Farage, the final speaker on Friday.