Republican No-Shows for CPAC Gathering Are Who’s Who of the GOP

When the annual Conservative Political Action Conference kicks off Thursday night, a highlight of the Republican Party’s calendar, some regular faces won’t be in attendance as former President Donald Trump cements his grip on the party.

Instead, the conference will welcome Trump for a keynote speech and the lineup is packed with loyalists and former administration officials. Dissent is not allowed this year.

Here’s a look at some who are not attending, either by CPAC’s choice or their own:

Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader — The highest-ranking Republican in Washington was not invited to the conference this year. While McConnell voted to acquit Trump at his recent impeachment trial, he gave a scathing rebuke of the former president in a speech after the trial.

Mitt Romney, U.S. senator — The 2012 Republican presidential nominee has become an outspoken critic of Trump, making him a pariah among Trump’s supporters. He voted to impeach the president — twice. Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC, last year tweeted Romney was disinvited, and he is not invited this year after voting to convict Trump of incitement of insurrection at his second impeachment trial. The Utah senator previously won the conference’s presidential straw poll in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012.

Mike Pence, former vice president — Pence has said he plans to follow the tradition of laying low during the first few months of a new administration. Schlapp said he thinks it’s a “mistake” for Pence to skip but Trump is angry at his vice president for upholding the Electoral College vote, even after a mob of Trump loyalists agitated to hang him outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Nikki Haley, former U.N. ambassador — The former ambassador to the U.N. during the Trump administration was invited to CPAC but declined, citing a scheduling conflict. Haley is widely viewed as a presidential contender in 2024 and hyped up the former president at last year’s event. After the Capitol riot, Haley said she doesn’t think Trump has a future leading in the GOP, but she walked that back a bit with a Wall Street Journal op-ed crediting Trump for other achievements and blaming the media for creating a rift in the party.

Rand Paul, U.S. senator — The libertarian-leaning firebrand from Kentucky won CPAC straw polls from 2013 to 2015, but has skipped more recent conferences.

Liz Cheney, U.S. House Republican Conference Chair — Cheney drew ire from Trump backers when she voted to impeach him for his role in inciting the riot on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. Since then, supporters like Representative Matt Gaetz have traveled to her home state of Wyoming to campaign against her; Donald Trump Jr has promised to as well.

Popular GOP Governors — Several popular Republican governors are not expected to attend, including Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Vermont Governor Phil Scott. All three have criticized Trump.

Traditional Party Provocateurs — Two CPAC regulars will also not be in attendance this year: National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre and former Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. Traditionally the NRA is a large sponsor of CPAC and LaPierre would be among the speakers, but the group declared bankruptcy last month and LaPierre has been under scrutiny for his leadership. In 2019, Falwell spoke on a panel at the conference alongside Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle and others. But a sex scandal in August tainted his image and forced his resignation from his leadership position at Liberty University.

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