DeSantis, Pence to Be Absent From CPAC, Trump to Give Keynote Speech

DeSantis, Pence to Be Absent From CPAC, Trump to Give Keynote Speech
Two of the four people most pegged for Presidential candidacy have declined their invitations to attend the 2023 Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, which begins tomorrow.

It is the first time since COVID struck that America’s largest gathering of conservatives will meet in Washington.

A CPAC spokesperson informed ABC that Governor DeSantis, who has yet to announce his candidacy, has other plans. For one, today was the governor’s release of his new book called “The Courage to be Free,” a book marketed as “Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival.”

On Saturday (March 4), the Florida governor is scheduled to headline two Republican fundraisers in Texas. The next day, he will address a reception for the GOP of Orange County, California.

DeSantis, one of the most anticipated Presidential candidates, has yet to announce his Presidential run—and he is keeping tight lipped about it. Should he decide to run, the latest polls have him tied with current president Biden.

Former Trump VP Mike Pence, who hasn’t attended the event in two years, again turned down the invitation. A spokesperson for Pence declined to provide content or comment.

“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 candidate and over 100 premiere speakers, including over 30 elected officials,” Megan Powers, a spokesperson for CPAC, told ABC News.

Both Donald Trump and Nikki Haley have announced their plans to run for the GOP nomination. Both are scheduled to speak at the conference, with Trump giving the keynote address on Saturday.

The recently re-elected RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called for party unity. As she told CNN’s Dana Bash, she is expecting the 2024 presidential candidates to sign a pledge to back the party’s final nominee for the primary debates.

“We haven’t put the criteria out, but I expect a pledge will be part of it. It was part of 2016, I think it’s kind of a no-brainer,” McDaniel said. “If you’re going to be on the Republican National Committee debate stage asking voters to support you, you should say I’m going to support the voters and who they choose as the nominee.”

Casting a shadow over the event will no doubt be the sexual assault scandal CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp is currently embroiled in. A staffer for Herschel Walker’s senate campaign accused Schlapp of making “sustained and unwanted and unsolicited” sexual contact with him while chauffeuring the chairman home from a bar in Atlanta, as reported by The Daily Beast.

Later that night, the staffer made a series of tearful videos describing the event. Schlapp’s attorney stated “the attack is false and Mr. Schlapp denies any improper behavior. We are evaluating legal options for response.” The staffer has filed a lawsuit against Schlapp and his wife, seeking $9.4 million for sexual battery and defamation.

By Wim De Gent