CPAC is taking sides in Virginia.
Bob McDonnell, the popular Republican governor of the state, was not invited to speak this year, the Washington Post reports, "according to someone close to CPAC who was not authorized to speak publicly." However, his ultra-conservative attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, who is running for governor, is scheduled to open the conference.
This puts McDonnell in the company of another popular Republican governor -- Chris Christie of New Jersey -- who was also snubbed after ticking off conservatives by calling out House Republicans who blocked Hurricane Sandy aid. McDonnell, similarly, got flak from the right for supporting a transportation package that raised taxes.
Cuccinelli's run for governor has exposed a sharp rift between his conservative backers in the state, and more moderate Republicans who are considering supporting a third-party candidate instead. The National Journal reported last week:
Republicans are viewing the governor’s race with increased urgency. Conservatives are turning against popular GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell, who was frequently mentioned as a 2016 presidential candidate. The state limits the governor to one term. Many of the party’s business allies are breaking with Ken Cuccinelli, the GOP’s nominee for governor, dissatisfied with his focus on polarizing social issues in kicking off his campaign. And the state’s GOP lieutenant governor, Bill Bolling, is openly mulling a third-party bid, which is looking more plausible by the day.
Virginia's gubernatorial race is just one piece of the growing tension among national Republicans over the direction of the party -- and even CPAC is starting to feel that heat. A number of conservatives have turned on the conference over the decision to exclude Christie, and, more recently, over the announcement that Donald Trump will be speaking.