CPAC welcomes 'competition' among speakers Trump, DeSantis, others ahead of 2024 straw poll

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Potential top Republican contenders in the 2024 presidential election will take the stage at the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference, and chair Matt Schlapp says he welcomes “competition” among the speakers on who can best fire up the crowd.

Former President Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Florida Sen. Rick Scott are a few of the speakers. 

And as is tradition, the conference is set to include a straw poll, which typically asks attendees to assess the president’s performance, share their feelings on administration policies and give predictions for the 2024 election.

“The presidential race is awfully important. The midterm elections in November are critical, and so is getting back the White House in an age where Congress does little, and presidents tend to overstep their powers and do a lot, especially as we saw with President Obama,” Schlapp told Fox News. “So I understand why people are focused on that.”

“I think it’s great that we have some competition, and we have some people who are out there strutting their stuff, and that’s what CPAC’s all about,” Schlapp said. “It has always been a place where people who want to lead this movement can see how well they fire up the crowd, and I’m sure that will happen again.” 

Former President Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas, on July 11, 2021.
(ANDY JACOBSOHN/AFP via Getty Images)

Schlapp said he did not want to try to “predict” the outcome of the straw poll – specifically the question of who could be the 2024 GOP presidential nominee – saying it is a “fair poll.”

“But my take is that Trump is like an incumbent. He is beloved by people, but people also respect great governors, leading that way is Ron DeSantis,” Schlapp said. “They love the senators that always stand up and do the right thing, like Ted Cruz, he’ll be at CPAC again, and I think Josh Hawley is going to be at CPAC.”

He added: “The presidential campaign is just far enough away where we don’t know exactly what is going to happen, and it makes for interesting speculation.”

Schlapp told Fox News that the audience at CPAC “is more in line with the Republican Party than it’s ever been.”

“CPAC, maybe 20 years ago, was far to the right of where the party was, but I don’t think that’s true anymore,” Schlapp said. “I think the CPAC audience and those who are going to vote in the straw poll are very similar to the types of people who are going to vote in a primary.” 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference CPAC held at the Hyatt Regency Orlando on Friday, Feb 26, 2021, in Orlando, Florida.
(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Schlapp said that what the straw poll does, more than anything else, is it “tells you, in a wide-open contest, who can strike a chord.” 

“I’m not sure this next one is going to be a wide-open contest, though,” Schlapp said. “It looks likely you have somebody running who is essentially an incumbent, so that’s not really wide open.”

Schlapp was referring to Trump, who is set to speak at CPAC on Saturday, Feb. 26. Trump, in interviews with Fox News over the last several months, has said he will not make a formal announcement on his 2024 plans until after the midterms in November, but he has hinted that people will be “very happy” with his decision.

Meanwhile, the theme of CPAC 2022 is “Awake, not woke,” which Schlapp told Fox News is a nod at “what’s going on in the country.”

“It is the theme of what’s going on in the country, between what happened in the commonwealth of Virginia and in San Francisco and happened all across the country on Election Day last year, is strangely enough, even in liberal communities, they were like, hey, parents aren’t domestic terrorists, cops aren’t evil, schools should educate kids and not just turn them into communists,” Schlapp said. “The country is starting to wake up from this stupor of somehow if you’re White or you’re Christian, if you’re straight, if you’re a person of faith, if you love the country, you don’t have to be quiet — they’ve quieted us down because they feel like well, you’re privileged, and that has caused people to kind of lay back, and I think that’s over.”

While “Awake, not woke” is CPAC’s theme, Schlapp said others may arise over the course of the conference.

“It comes together in this kind of orchestra, and themes arise — we’ve picked our theme, but what do the speakers believe? They might believe something different, and that’s why I like it, that’s why I think its such an interesting occurrence, because it gives people a chance to express their own views, and people watching it have takeaways,” Schlapp said.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at CPAC, Feb. 26, 2021, in Orlando, Florida. 
(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Schlapp told Fox News that CPAC 2022 will also be the “starting gun” for the midterms in November.

“I’m looking forward to the starting gun going off for this great debate we’re going to have in this country on whether or not the Biden administration is operating with any kind of expertise, whether or not the American people are enjoying socialism and whether or not they believe their voices matter, and that’s what CPAC essentially does,” Schlapp said.

Fox News first obtained the 2022 CPAC agenda, which includes speeches from prominent politicians as well as panels focused on political issues facing the party and the nation.

Some of the panels include “Domestic Terrorists Unite: Lessons from Virginia Parents;” “The First Amendment Fund: Defending the Canceled”; “Fire Fauci” and “Woke, Inc.”

CPAC, held in Orlando at The Rosen Shingle Creek from Thursday, Feb. 24 through Sunday, Feb. 27, will feature speeches and presentations from Trump, DeSantis, Republican lawmakers, former Trump administration officials and more.

CPAC annually brings together more than 18,000 people from college aged to retired, representing conservative organizations, educational institutions, elected officials, thought leaders, media personalities and grassroots activists “who fight for conservatism in America and abroad,” the CPAC website states.

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