Conservatives turn on CPAC

The conference's decision to shut out Chris Christie and GOProud has caused some backlash from within

Published February 27, 2013 8:03PM (EST)

The Conservative Political Action Conference is facing backlash from ... conservatives.

It began when it was reported that gay Republican groups like the Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud would not be in attendance at this year's conservative confab in Washington, D.C. GOProud, in fact, was banned before last year's event and was not welcomed back this year, either.

There was more trouble for CPAC when, this week, the chair of the American Conservative Union, which organizes the conference, explained that CPAC snubbed super-popular New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie because he opted in to the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, and put too much pressure on congressional Republicans who were blocking Hurricane Sandy aid.

Since some Republicans have been trying to appeal to a broader swath of the electorate, these decisions were naturally going to irk a few people.

First, S.E. Cupp, a conservative pundit on MSNBC's "The Cycle," pulled out of the event in protest of the exclusion of GOProud. "I've been thinking about this a lot, and I know a lot of people on my side of the aisle have been struggling with this for some time now, too: I've been scheduled to speak at CPAC this year, and I just don't think I can until this issue is reconciled and figured out," she said Tuesday.

Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post's favorite conservative (and frequent presence on Salon's Hack List), wrote that CPAC "damages itself" with a high-profile rejection of gay Republicans: "For casual political observers not inclined to attend or listen to speeches the only thing they will hear is that a bunch of conservatives wouldn’t allow in a gay group. In a nutshell, this is what is wrong with the GOP and why forward-looking conservatives shouldn’t encourage this nonsense."

Steve Schmidt, the Republican strategist, dismissed the conference entirely. "Look, this CPAC convention is increasingly the Star Wars bar scene of the conservative movement. I mean all that’s missing at that convention is a couple of Wookiees," he said on MSNBC.

Schmidt praised Christie, adding that "CPAC is not the Republican Party," and "their exclusionary policies that gay groups can’t come and participate – and you look at some of the lineup of speakers, these are people that are on the fringe, these are people that don’t attract a wider audience that we need to attract to win elections."

Conservative Charles Krauthammer said Tuesday that he too objected to Christie's "lap dance" for President Obama after Hurricane Sandy, but snubbing him from CPAC seems like a "vast overreaction" and a "mistake."

“He’s a leading Republican, obviously presidential timbre. He’s got the highest popularity of any governor and he’s in a blue state," Krauthammer said.

Christie, for his part, was unfazed by the exclusion. "Listen, I wish them all the best," he said at a town hall meeting in New Jersey, the Star-Ledger reports. "They're going to have their conference, they're going to have a bunch of people speaking there. That's their call ... It's not like I'm lacking for invitations to speak around the country."

"I can't sweat the small stuff," he added. "I've got a state to rebuild."

By Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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Charles Krauthammer Chris Christie Cpac Goproud Republicans