It is worth noting who is not present in Las Vegas this weekend: Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who recently launched a nationwide organization that is surely the foundation of a serious run at the presidency.
It’s not that these politicians have bad relationships with the RJC–though the elder Paul was excluded from the RJC’s candidate forum–but this isn’t really their kind of party.
In fact, the one red-state Republican who makes a habit of showing up to RJC events is Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has wasted much of his conservative credibility on ill-advised efforts at “comprehensive” immigration reform and climate change legislation, but who remains one of the strongest voices on Capitol Hill for Israel and against Islamic extremism. In that sense, Graham is the RJC exception that proves the rule.
That’s not to say the RJC’s Vegas meeting is meaningless. Far from it: the candidates who speak on Saturday will set the (unofficial) moderate agenda for 2016. It will be an agenda that embraces–or at least makes room for–conservative fiscal and social principles, but which also places a premium on executive experience, and especially on those candidates who have shown an ability to convince blue-state voters to cross the aisle.