A top MAGA gathering finds life complicated after Trump

Source: Politico | January 27, 2021 | Gabby Orr and Daniel Lippman

CPAC was at the top of its powers last year. Then Covid-19 hit, Trump lost, and the postelection chaos ensued. Now, the confab has some challenges ahead.

One of the premier MAGA gatherings in the nation is struggling to recreate the magic this year.

For decades, the Conservative Political Action Conference has been a staple of Republican politics. In recent years, the conservative confab has been the go-to stop for rising GOP stars, grassroots organizers and luminaries in the Trump movement.

But President Donald Trump’s election loss has created hurdles around programming and guest booking. Stringent coronavirus guidelines in Maryland have pushed the conference outside of the Washington area for the first time in nearly 50 years. Previous sponsors aren’t yet committed or have decided to forgo sponsorship entirely because of changes to the event’s format or disappointment in the return on their investment last year. And the president that attendees adored so much may not show up to the event at all.

Senior Trump adviser Jason Miller said Trump, whose Mar-a-Lago abode is less than 2.5 hours away from the Orlando hotel where this year’s conference will occur on Feb. 25-28, is not currently scheduled to make an appearance. Meanwhile, a senior American Conservative Union official would not answer whether Mike Pence, who drew MAGA world’s ire for certifying Joe Biden’s election, had been invited to speak. A spokesperson for the former vice president did not respond to a request in time for publication.

ACU Chair Matt Schlapp said he is convinced this year’s conference will be no different from past years. “CPAC is going great,” he told POLITICO on Tuesday, before then saying that his quote needed to be attributed without his name. Schlapp did not address questions about why some sponsors were not continuing their CPAC sponsorship. But after those questions were posed and additional questions were sent to CPAC sponsors — including whether the Jan. 6 Capitol riot impacted their thinking about sponsoring again this year — ACU general counsel David Safavian accused POLITICO of “tortious interference with business relationships” and attempting “to ‘cancel’ both CPAC and the American Conservative Union itself.” The group then tweeted a copy of a letter from Safavian that included a litigation threat.

“We fully intend to explore our legal rights to hold Politico fully accountable for what we see as tortious conduct,” the letter stated.

How well CPAC goes this year will provide one of the first public indications about the health of the MAGA movement with Trump out of office and with the Republican Party divided over just how loyal to the former president it should be.

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