The Conservative Political Action Conference wraps up their annual confab today with a big gap in its schedule. Originally, the day would have started off with Donald Trump’s speech on the main stage at 8:30 am ET, which would have had massive attendance even after a night of partying here in National Harbor. The Secret Service security — in place for speeches yesterday by Ben Carson, John Kasich, and Ted Cruz — would have forced the crowds to gather at least an hour prior to that just to get in the doors. In fact, the security plan yesterday blocked off Radio Row too, although they moved the security checkpoints to the ballroom doors when that started keeping broadcasters from their booths for too long.
Trump’s cancellation created a stir yesterday among the crowd, but not necessarily a mass of anger. There had been some rumors of an organized walkout if Trump spoke, but that seemed unrealistic at best; anyone who braved those security lines for as long as it took to get in to see Carson wouldn’t have bothered to do it again just to conduct a walkout stunt. While it’s true that Trump got booed at the debate party on Thursday night a few times, there was still a significant contingent of Trump supporters on hand to cheer as well. The place would have been packed this morning with Trump in the room, and his decision to bail on those fans left them perhaps more non-plussed and disappointed than furious. After all, CPAC’s attendees last year afforded Jeb Bush a polite and even warm reception even though his mentions before and after his appearance drew boos (as I can personally attest during the final panel in 2015), and it’s almost certain that Trump would have had a much more enthusiastic response today.
That leaves the day clear for Marco Rubio, who will speak today at 11:35 am today, a speech that will be carried live by C-SPAN for those unable to attend CPAC in person. Just two weeks ago, Rubio came under fire for failing to commit to his appearance at CPAC (as well as for bailing out on the Conservative Review event in February), so suddenly he’s not the bad guy at this conference any longer. Otherwise, the main stage today focuses more on panel groups, such as Thank Goodness For Guns In America at 12:15 featuring Kimberly Corban, who challenged Barack Obama at his gun-control forum in January; I interviewed her yesterday and we’ll post the video later today. Immediately after that, Mary Katharine Ham moderates the next panel on Hollywood, Media and Education: The Three Strongholds Of The Left, featuring actress Stacey Dash.
Finally, the CPAC straw poll results will get announced at the end of the main program for today, and then the stage clears at 5:15 pm for the keynote speaker — Glenn Beck. Beck has enthusiastically supported Ted Cruz, but expect his speech to focus tonight more on the movement and where it goes from here. Oddly, it does not appear that C-SPAN will cover Beck’s remarks, but keep checking to see if they change their minds. After that, it’s all over at CPAC except the Saturday night partying.
I’ve spent much of my time working Radio Row for Hot Air and Going Red. This morning, I’ll also speak to a group of students supporting Rubio who have traveled here for the Senator’s speech, plus conduct interviews with Ashe Schow about the efforts to demand due process on college campuses. Stay tuned!