Despite winning the event’s annual straw poll for the last two years running, Ron Paul has seemingly been excluded from this year’s CPAC conference, with Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich announced as keynote speakers but Paul appearing nowhere on the roster.
The exclusion of Paul is likely a maneuver by GOP insiders to re-align CPAC, the biggest annual conservative confab, with the Republican establishment and prevent an embarrassing straw poll defeat for likely presidential pick Mitt Romney, who Paul beat in 2010 and 2011.
According to the CPAC website, fellow presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum will all address the event scheduled to take place Feb. 8-11 in Washington, but Ron Paul will be absent.
“Although a combination of factors might be at play, including Paul’s focus on the Maine caucuses, a changing of the guard at the top of CPAC’s management team is likely behind Paul’s exclusion,” notes Stephen Woodward.
Indeed, the selection of former chairman of the Florida Republican Party Al Cardenas to lead CPAC has brought with it a decidedly neoconservative flavor to the 2012 event.
Besides Romney and Gingrich, the likes of Ann Coulter, John Bolton, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Herman Cain and Rick Perry will all speak at the conference.
During a post CPAC 2011 interview, American Conservative Union (ACU) chief Cardenas put Ron Paul supporters on notice by warning them that they would not be invited to the 2012 event if they failed to act with “civility” after previous speakers Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were booed by Paul activists.
The change in direction seemingly stems from a revolt, characterized by Politico as a “conservative civil war,” that preceded last year’s conference fueled by concerns expressed by establishment Republicans that the conference was turning “libertarian”.
Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who boycotted the 2010 and 2011 conferences because of the attendance of Ron Paul and his supporters, is set to return to speak at the 2012 event.
CPAC’s move to marginalize true conservatives like Ron Paul also stems from concerns that the rival Values Voter Summit is gaining more prominence within establishment Republican circles.
Paul has won the CPAC straw poll for the past two years running and has spoke at the last three conferences.
Following his victory last year, Fox News erroneously reported that Paul had been booed by the audience when his win was announced. In reality, Fox played footage from the previous year’s event when Mitt Romney supporters had loudly booed the result and Paul supporters had been absent due to a Campaign for Liberty meeting running late.
Although Ron Paul supporters have presumably been uninvited because they booed Cheney and Rumsfeld, Romney fans who booed Paul will be in attendance at CPAC 2012, highlighting the hypocrisy behind Paul’s exclusion.