Through a verified Twitter account Friday, the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) announced, that at the last minute, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump dropped out of his scheduled Saturday appearance. “Very disappointed @realDonaldTrump has decided at the last minute to drop out of #CPAC,” CPAC tweeted, “his choice sends a clear message to conservatives.”
— CPAC (@CPAC) March 4, 2016
The Trump campaign released a statement:
The Donald J. Trump for President Campaign has just announced it will be in Witchita, Kanasas for a major rally on Saturday prior to Caucus. He will also be speaking at the Kansas Caucus and then departing for Orlando, Florida and a crowd of approximately 20,000 people or more. Because of this, he will not be able to speak at CPAC as he has done for many consecutive years. Mr. Trump would like to thank Matt Schlapp and all of the executives at CPAC and looks forward to returning to next year, hopefully as President of the United States
This is a blunder, writes Breitbart’s Joel Pollak
Trump canceling CPAC is a colossal blunder. It is the proverbial shooting on 5th avenue. Trump needs to consolidate the support of conservatives to unify the party and win in the fall. He knows it, which is why he talked about unity on Super Tuesday. Now he says he needs to go to Kansas, where he is up by 12 points?
No, CPAC doesn’t really matter much anymore. And Trump’s rise suggests, as Allahpundit argues at HotAir, that the conservative movement has less influence than it thinks (or, as I would put it, less pull in government than in opposition). But conservatives don’t want their noses rubbed in it. Trump still needs to flatter us.
Mitt Romney’s pathetic speech on Thursday took the wind out of the absurd #NeverTrump movement — which, if it means what it says, is prepared to elect Hillary Clinton. But now #NeverTrump will attract more disgruntled conservatives, because Trump has exposed the weakness of the conservative brand and they have to save it.
I would add that CPAC has itself to blame — and specifically the Tea Party. Jenny Beth Martin released an advance version of her speech this morning, in which she rips Donald Trump in terms no different from Mitt Romney. In the fall, she built Trump up at the rally to stop the Iran deal. That’s a significant reversal.
My guess is that she figured Trump is likely to win the nomination anyway, so pounding him would not hurt, and would preserve the Tea Party’s outsider brand. But that speech pushed all the wrong buttons. It almost invited Trump to pull out of CPAC, because it set him up for massive opposition if he dared to show up.
Of course he still should have shown up. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — whom Trump mocks –showed up in 2008 to face the boos, because he needed to consolidate conservative support even though he had the votes by then to win the nomination. (CPAC’s hero that year was Mitt Romney, which says a lot about many things.)
Trump has reinforced the idea that he is thin-skinned, which is something conservatives already dislike in Obama. Worse, he reinforced perceptions that he is a flip-flopper. At last night’s debate, he reversed his position on H-1B visas, and had to issue a clarification. Pulling out of CPAC hours later has the same effect.
Will it hurt Trump? It won’t block his path to the nomination. But it might make it harder for him to bring conservatives to the polls in November. The only good news for him is that both Rubio and Cruz will use this to make hay — i.e. neither has pulled out to help the other. He should note: conservatives vote in Kansas, too.
Republican Senator Ben Sasse, a vocal Trump critic, attacks:
PREDICTION: not the last time @realdonaldtrump will abandon conservatives
MT”Trump drops out of #CPAC
sends clear message to conservatives”
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) March 4, 2016
This piece will be updated as news arrives.
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