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GOP Grapples With “Thinner Crowd and Fewer Stalls” At CPAC 2024

This year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is encountering a notable decline in both room capacity and attendance compared to previous editions.

The Lineup and the Empty Seats

Credits: DepositPhotos – Oskaloosa, Iowa – July 25, 2015: Donald Trump make America great again rally. — Photo by sgtphoto

CPAC, spanning from Wednesday to Saturday in Washington, D.C., boasts a lineup of prominent speakers, including former President Donald Trump and various Republican figures.

However, images and videos circulating on social media platforms reveal numerous empty seats during some speeches.

Sparse Audience Draws Attention

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Journalists and attendees alike have pointed out the visibly reduced crowd at CPAC this year, with images depicting empty seats during speeches by notable figures.

Criticism and Commentary

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Observers like National Journal reporter Zac Weisz have remarked on the comparatively “thinner crowd – and fewer stalls” at CPAC 2024, highlighting a departure from previous years’ robust attendance.

Restrictions on Entry

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American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp announced restrictions on media entry, asserting that “left-wing” journalists would not be allowed access, citing concerns about biased coverage.

Lara Trump’s Address

Credit: DepositPhotos – Lara Trump during CPAC Covention in Maryland. March 03, 2023, Maryland, USA: Lara Trump during CPAC convention Protecting America Now is taking place at (INT) CPAC at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center — Photo by thenews2.com

Lara Trump, daughter-in-law of Donald Trump, addressed the audience with enthusiasm, touching on topics such as her father-in-law’s presidency and her bid for leadership in the Republican National Committee.

Despite her presence, empty seats remained visible.

CPAC’s Legacy and Challenges

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Established in 1974, CPAC has traditionally served as a cornerstone event for conservatives.

However, this year’s conference faces criticism and pushback, with some prominent conservatives opting to attend alternative summits.

Counter-Programming and Opposition

Credits: DepositPhotos – Donald J. Trump at CPAC Covention Protecting America Now in Maryland. March 04, 2023, Maryland, USA: The former President of USA, Donald J. Trump at the CPAC convention Protecting America Now — Photo by thenews2.com

The Principles First summit, organized as a counter-programming effort against CPAC, features speakers critical of Trump and aims to provide a platform for dissenting voices within the conservative movement.

Reflections on CPAC’s Evolution

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Former attendees and conservatives express disillusion with CPAC’s current trajectory, citing a shift from substantive policy discussions towards spectacle and partisanship.

Decline in Participation

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Some conservatives, such as Heath Mayo, founder of Principles First and a former CPAC attendee, note a decline in interest and participation in the event, lamenting its transformation from a forum for meaningful debate to what they perceive as a “just a circus.”

Sentiments of Disappointment

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Critics of CPAC express disappointment over its diminishing significance as a gathering place for conservative ideas and networking opportunities, reflecting on its past as a hub for young conservatives.

A Changing Landscape

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As CPAC grapples with declining attendance and criticism, questions arise about its future role in shaping conservative discourse and mobilizing grassroots support.

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