CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) is a predominantly libertarian conference consisting of overwhelmingly white male college students, many of whom attend for free or at heavily discounted rates. CPAC historically met in Washington, D.C., in February or March, with attendance increasing beyond 10,000. CPAC outgrew the largest hotels in D.C., and in 2014 through 2017 convened outside of D.C. in the massive Marriott Gaylord hotel in National Harbor, Maryland. In recent years CPAC has been dominated by impostors who are not really conservative, and Donald Trump even canceled his appearance at CPAC in early March 2016 to avoid a Leftist-type walkout plot against him. CPAC has largely abandoned its tradition of being the largest annual gathering of conservatives.
Students for Life is largest annual conservative conference that has balance between men and women in attendance. It sells out with its annual conference of 2000 in D.C., around the time of the March for Life. It also succeeds without the libertarian and big money dominance that increasingly plagues CPAC. But CPAC does remain a good counterweight to the neocons who dominate the Fox News Channel.
In 2010, the CPAC audience demonstrates its lack of social conservatism by ranking issues in the following importance:
- 85%: reducing government and government spending
- 10%: eliminating abortion
- 1%: stopping same-sex marriage
There was, however, virtually unanimous opposition among attendees to the policies of the Obama Administration.
Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio finished 1-2 in the straw poll for president at CPAC in 2016. Donald Trump finished in a distant third place, but then won the Republican nomination and the presidency. Ron Paul won the straw poll among attendees for president in 2012, but Mitt Romney came in a close second. Romney then won the Republican nomination for president, but lost in the general election.
Ronald Reagan Award
Each year the special Ronald Reagan Award is given to a rising star in the conservative movement, and there have been some tremendous recipients in the 1990s and 2000s. In 2010, this award went to the Tea Parties.
The following people did not speak at CPAC 2010:
- John McCain
- Jeb Bush
- Charlie Crist
- Sarah Palin
- Chris Christie
- Rudy Giuliani
- Sean Hannity
- Bill Kristol