Conservative Political Action Conference

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC; /ˈspæk/ SEE-pak) is an annual political conference attended by conservative activists and elected officials from across the United States and beyond. CPAC is hosted by the American Conservative Union (ACU).[1]

Conservative Political Action Conference
CPAC 2020.png
CPAC 2020 logo
DatesFebruary/March (dates vary)
Location(s)National Harbor, Maryland, U.S.
Inaugurated1973; 48 years ago (1973)
Most recentFebruary 26–29, 2020
Organized byAmerican Conservative Union

In 2011, ACU took CPAC on the road with its first Regional CPAC in Orlando, Florida. Since then ACU has hosted regional CPACs in Chicago, Denver, St. Louis, and San Diego. Political front runners take the stage at this convention.[citation needed]

The 2019 CPAC took place at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center from February 27 to March 2, 2019.[2][better source needed]

The 2020 CPAC took place at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center from February 26 to February 29, 2020,[3] with special guest President Donald Trump speaking on February 29.


Number of CPAC attendees over time
President Ronald Reagan speaking at the 1985 CPAC
President George W. Bush speaking at the 2008 CPAC
President Donald Trump speaking at the 2018 CPAC

The conference was founded in 1974 by the American Conservative Union and Young Americans for Freedom as a small gathering of dedicated conservatives.[4][5][6] Ronald Reagan gave the inaugural keynote speech at CPAC in 1974.[7] Like the conference's speakers today, the presidential hopeful used it to share his vision for the country—"A Shining City Upon A Hill," words borrowed from John Winthrop.[8]


In 2014, CPAC extended an invitation to the American Atheists, which was immediately withdrawn on the same day due to controversial statements by AA's president David Silverman, who declared his group was going to "enlighten conservatives" and that "the Christian right should be threatened by us."[9]

Richard Spencer, a figurehead of the Alt-Right and a white supremacist, entered the lobby of the Gaylord National Hotel on February 23, 2017 in an attempt to access CPAC. Organizers of the conference ejected him from the hotel as soon as his presence was discovered, citing his "repugnant [views which] ... have absolutely nothing to do with conservatism or what we do here" as cause for rejecting his admission to CPAC.[10] ACU's Executive Director Dan Schneider castigated Spencer and the alt-right in a main-stage speech, calling them "garden-variety, left-wing fascists," and saying that the alt-right "despises everything [conservatives] believe in."[11][12] Media members across the political spectrum, led by progressive journalists and opinion columnists, salvoed the intrusion as yet another attempt by hateful groups, like the alt-right, to conceal their bigotry within a legitimate philosophy. Opinion columns in The New York Times, and articles in Mother Jones and Rolling Stone voiced concern about the 2017 interview of ex-Trump Adviser Steve Bannon and ex-Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus with ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp, advocating for the American Right to reject the tenets of the alt-right (e.g. homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, racism, etc.).[13][14][15]

Fringe groups at CPACEdit

The 2010 CPAC featured co-sponsorship for the first time from the John Birch Society and GOProud, a gay conservative group. GoProud is credited in the media for initiating talks with ACU to invite Donald Trump to speak at CPAC 2011.[16] The 2011 CPAC speech Trump gave is credited for helping kick-start his political career within the Republican Party.[17][18][19] Christopher R. Barron, co-founder of GOProud who would later not only endorse Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, but also launch LGBT for Trump, said he "would love to see Mr. Trump run for president."

The 2015 CPAC featured Jamila Bey who became the first atheist activist to address CPAC's annual meeting.[20] The 2016 CPAC featured co-sponsorship for the first time from the Log Cabin Republicans.[21]

Milo Yiannopoulos invitationEdit

In December 2016, CPAC extended an invitation to conservative blogger Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at the event, despite his history of controversial views on feminism, racial minorities, and transgender issues. The invitation was canceled when the Reagan Battalion re-posted a video of 2016 and 2015 YouTube videos[22] in which Yiannopoulos is heard making comments defending sexual relationships between adult men and 13-year-old boys, citing his own sexual experiences at that age with a Catholic priest.[23]

Sacha Baron Cohen interruptionEdit

In 2020, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen attended CPAC dressed as President Trump while filming his latest movie Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. After interrupting the event, he was kicked out.[24][25]

2020 COVID-19 exposuresEdit

On Saturday, March 7, 2020, ACU confirmed that an attendee at the 2020 CPAC later tested positive for COVID-19. Senator Ted Cruz, Representatives Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Doug Collins, and Mark Meadows had direct contact with the unnamed carrier, and announced their self-quarantine.[26][27]

Annual straw pollEdit

Straw poll results at the 2015 CPAC, showing Rand Paul as the apparent winner

The annual CPAC straw poll vote traditionally serves as a barometer for the feelings of the conservative movement. During the conference, attendees are encouraged to fill out a survey that asks questions on a variety of issues. The questions regarding the most popular possible presidential candidates are the most widely reported. One component of CPAC is evaluating conservative candidates for president, and the straw poll serves generally to quantify conservative opinion.

Year Straw poll winner % of votes Second place % of votes Eventual Republican nominee
1974–5 Polling irregular?[citation needed] Gerald Ford (1976)
1976 Ronald Reagan[28] n/a George Wallace n/a
1977–79 Polling irregular?[citation needed] Ronald Reagan (1980)
1980 Ronald Reagan[29] n/a n/a n/a
1981–83 Not held (Ronald Reagan's nomination presumptive)[29] Ronald Reagan (1984)
1984 Ronald Reagan[29] n/a n/a n/a
1985 Not held[29] George H. W. Bush (1988)
1986 Jack Kemp[30][31] n/a George H. W. Bush n/a
1987 Jack Kemp[32] 68 Pat Buchanan 9
1988 Not held[29]
1989–91 Not held (George H. W. Bush's nomination presumptive)[29] George H. W. Bush (1992)
1992 Pat Buchanan[33] ? ? ?
1993 Jack Kemp[34] n/a n/a n/a Bob Dole (1996)
1994 Not held[29]
1995 Phil Gramm[35] 40 Bob Dole 12
1996 Bob Dole[36] 26 Pat Buchanan 24
1997 Not held[29] George W. Bush (2000)
1998 Steve Forbes[37] 23 George W. Bush 10
1999 Gary Bauer[38][39] 28 George W. Bush 24
2000 George W. Bush[40] 42 Alan Keyes 23
2001–04 Not held (George W. Bush's nomination presumptive)[41] George W. Bush (2004)
2005 Rudy Giuliani[42] 19 Condoleezza Rice 18 John McCain (2008)
2006 George Allen[43] 22 John McCain 20
2007 Mitt Romney[43] 21 Rudy Giuliani 17
2008 Mitt Romney[43] 35 John McCain 34
2009 Mitt Romney[43][44] 20 Bobby Jindal 14 Mitt Romney (2012)
2010 Ron Paul[43][45] 31 Mitt Romney 22
2011 Ron Paul[46] 30 Mitt Romney 23
2012 Mitt Romney[47] 38 Rick Santorum 31
2013 Rand Paul[48] 25 Marco Rubio 23 Donald Trump (2016)
2014 Rand Paul[49] 31 Ted Cruz 11
2015 Rand Paul 26 Scott Walker 21
2016 Ted Cruz 40 Marco Rubio 30
2017–18 Not held (Donald Trump's nomination presumptive)[50] Donald Trump (2020)
2019 Donald Trump[51][52] 82 Mitt Romney 6
2020 Not held (Donald Trump's nomination presumptive)[53]

Overall, Mitt Romney holds the record of winning more CPAC straw polls than any other individual, with four. Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp and Rand Paul follow with three consecutive wins each, followed by Ron Paul with two wins. Of these five, the Pauls are the only two to win more than one straw poll, yet never appear on a Republican presidential ticket in any election (although Ron Paul did receive one Electoral College vote in 2016).[54] Despite his former popularity, Romney was uninvited from CPAC in 2020 for his vote to hear additional witnesses in the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump.[55]


Since 2007, the Jeane Kirkpatrick Academic Freedom Award has been presented at CPAC in memory of Jeane Kirkpatrick. The award is sponsored by the Bradley Foundation, and its first recipient was Matt Sanchez.[56][57] In 2010, the Ronald Reagan Award was given to the Tea Party movement, which marked the first time it was ever given to a group instead of an individual.[58]

Foreign CPACsEdit


Australia's first CPAC was held in August 2019, with guest speakers including former prime minister Tony Abbott, Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage, former Breitbart editor-in-chief Raheem Kassam and NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham. Liberal Senator Amanda Stoker and Craig Kelly MP were at the event. There have been calls for Kassam to be banned from coming into the country before the event.[59][60]

The 2020 conference started on November 4.[61] Canadian alt-right YouTuber Lauren Southern was initially scheduled to appear, but her invitation was rescinded by the organizers.[62]


The first CPAC in Brazil took place between 11–12 October 2019, in the city of São Paulo, attended by leading conservative names from U.S. like ACU chairman Matt Schlapp and his wife Mercedes Schlapp, Utah senator Mike Lee, Fox News especialist Walid Phares, and Brazilian names like Federal deputy and the President Jair Bolsonaro's son Eduardo Bolsonaro, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Araújo, and the Prince Imperial of Brazil Bertrand Maria José de Orléans e Bragança and others.[63][64]

The ACU Foundation has announced that the event will take place annually in Brazil from 2019.[65][66]


The first international CPAC was hosted in Tokyo on December 16–17, 2017 by the Japanese Conservative Union (JCU) in conjunction with the American Conservative Union (ACU).[67] JCU and ACU have continued to co-host J-CPACs every year since. Participants have included notable lawmakers and conservatives from the U.S., Japan, and around the world. They include ACU chairman Matt Schlapp and executive director Dan Schneider, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, U.S. Representatives Bruce Westerman, and Paul Gosar, Fmr. METI Minister Akira Amari, Fmr. Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, Fmr. Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, Fmr. Taiwanese Finance Minister and WTO ambassador Ching-Chang Wen, journalist Sara Carter, then-SEC commissioner Michael Piwowar, Asia expert and commentator Gordon Chang, to name just a few. Hong Kong freedom fighter Andy Chan Ho-tin attended Japanese CPAC 2019 by video after he was arrested in Hong Kong on his way to Tokyo to make a live appearance.[68]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "CPAC 2015 Straw Poll: Rand Paul wins again – but Scott Walker is surging". The Washington Times. February 28, 2015. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  2. ^ "CPAC 2020". CPAC 2020. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
  3. ^ Hutzler, Alexandra (February 26, 2020). "CPAC 2020 schedule, live stream: How to watch key speakers at annual conservative conference". Newsweek. Retrieved March 3, 2020.
  4. ^ Diamond, Sara (1995) [1995]. Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States (2 ed.). New York, NY: The Guilford Press. pp. 128, 138, 146, 198, 210, 212, 285, 289, 327. ISBN 0-89862-862-8.
  5. ^ Wilcox, Derk Arend (2000). The Right Guide: A Guide to Conservative, Free-Market, and Right-of-Center Organizations. United States of America: Economics America, Inc. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-914169-06-2.
  6. ^ "CPAC Over 30 Years: Conservatives Have Come a Long Way". Human Events. February 3, 2003.
  7. ^ "Why Ronald Reagan Is Such a Big Deal at CPAC". Time.
  8. ^ " – Your favorite newspapers and magazines".
  9. ^ "Atheists Invited, Then Uninvited, to CPAC". Political Outcast. February 26, 2014. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
  10. ^ "White Nationalist Richard Spencer Kicked Out Of CPAC".
  11. ^ "A Top Conservative Said the Alt-Right Are Actually 'Left-Wing Fascists'". Time. Retrieved January 7, 2018.
  12. ^ Weigel, David; Wagner, John (February 23, 2017). "Alt-right leader expelled from CPAC after organizer denounces 'fascist group'". Retrieved January 7, 2018 – via
  13. ^ "Conservatives can't figure out whether to embrace or denounce the alt-right". Mother Jones. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  14. ^ "CPAC's Flirtation With the Alt-Right Is Turning Awkward". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  15. ^ Williamson, Elizabeth (February 24, 2017). "Big Tent or Circus Tent? A Conservative Identity Crisis in the Trump Era". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  16. ^ Chris Moody and Alexander Rosen. "Gays for Trump? Activist plans new effort". CNN.
  17. ^ "GOProud Leads 'Trump In 2012' Movement At CPAC – Towleroad". February 10, 2011. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  18. ^ "Gay GOProud Founder Chris Barron Launches Loathsome 'LGBT for Trump' Campaign: WATCH – Towleroad". June 15, 2016. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  19. ^ Correspondent, Chris Moody, CNN Senior Digital. "How gay conservatives helped launch Donald Trump". CNN. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  20. ^ "In a first, atheist activist addresses conservative conference". The Washington Post. December 14, 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  21. ^ "'Smooth sailing' for gay Republicans at CPAC". March 4, 2016. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  22. ^ Ohlheiser, Abby (February 21, 2017). "The 96 hours that brought down Milo Yiannopoulos" – via The Washington Post.
  23. ^ Hartmann, Margaret. "CPAC Blasted for Milo Yiannopoulos Invite After Pedophilia Remarks Resurface". New York Magazine. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
  24. ^ "Borat 2 trailer reveals moment Sacha Baron Cohen crashes CPAC disguised as Trump". FR24 News. October 1, 2020. Retrieved October 3, 2020.
  25. ^ Stoddart, Michelle (February 27, 2020). "Trump impersonator interrupts Vice President Mike Pence's CPAC speech". ABC News. Retrieved October 3, 2020.
  26. ^ "Senator Cruz Self Quarantines After Contact With Coronavirus Carrier".
  27. ^ Al-Arshani, Sarah. "Incoming White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is self-quarantining until Wednesday after attending CPAC". Business Insider. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  28. ^ "Conservatives drop third party idea, attempt to win nomination for Reagan". The Bulletin. February 17, 1976. p. 14 – via Google News Archive.
  29. ^ a b c d e f g h Gonyea, Don. "What Is CPAC? A Room That Didn't Always Love Trump, But Owes Him A Lot". National Public Radio (NPR). Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  30. ^ "Looming Kemp-Bush battle gets early shove". Gadsden Times. p. A12 – via Google News Archive.
  31. ^ Gailey, Phil (February 1, 1986). "G.O.P. Strategists Clash Over a Presidential Poll". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
  32. ^ Nelson, W. Dale. "President Is 'Saving Best Stuff for Last Act'". Schenectady Gazette. p. 3 – via Google News Archive.
  33. ^ Johnson, Eliana. "Alt-right influence casts cloud over CPAC". POLITICO. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  34. ^ "Republican Right Wing Gathers To Bash Clinton, Look to 1996 Conservatives meet in record numbers to find that there is life – and echoes of past unity – after the presidency". The Christian Science Monitor. February 22, 1993. ISSN 0882-7729.
  35. ^ "Archive Search Results".
  36. ^ Salant, Jonathan D. "Christie places in the back of the pack in CPAC straw poll". Advance Local Media, LLC. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  37. ^ Hallow, Ralph Z. "Forbes tops Bush in presidential straw poll of conservatives". The Washington Post – via
  38. ^ Neal, Terry M. (January 31, 1999). "Bauer Planning Steps for Presidential Bid". The Washington Post. Washington DC. p. A2. Retrieved November 6, 2010.
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  42. ^ "Bracing for the worst". The Washington Times. February 23, 2005. Retrieved March 8, 2015.
  43. ^ a b c d e Danielle Kurtzleben (February 11, 2011). "CPAC Straw Poll Not Predictive of Eventual Nominee". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
  44. ^ Sam Stein (March 31, 2009). "Romney Wins CPAC Poll, Palin Tied For Third". Huffington Post. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
  45. ^ Shepard, Brenda; Murray, Mark (February 21, 2010). "Ron Paul wins CPAC straw poll". NBC News. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
  46. ^ Falcone, Michael (February 12, 2011). "Ron Paul Wins 2011 CPAC Straw Poll, Sarah Palin Finishes a Distant 9th Place". ABC News. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
  47. ^ Lederman, Josh (February 12, 2012). "Santorum suggests Romney rigged CPAC straw poll victory". The Hill. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
  48. ^ Sherfinski, David; Dinan, Stephen (March 16, 2013). "Rand Paul wins The Washington Times-CPAC 2013 Straw Poll". Washington Times. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
  49. ^ Hohmann, James (March 8, 2014). "A Rand Paul rout in CPAC straw poll". Politico. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  50. ^ Gonyea, Don. "What Is CPAC? A Room That Didn't Always Love Trump, But Owes Him A Lot". Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  51. ^ Sherfinski, David; Dinan, Stephen (March 2, 2019). "CPAC straw poll: Biden biggest threat to Trump".
  52. ^ CPAC 2019 Straw Poll, retrieved February 2, 2020
  53. ^
  54. ^ Patrick Svitek (January 9, 2017). "Rogue Texas elector explains decision to back Ron Paul". The Texas Tribune.
  55. ^ Choi, Matthew (January 31, 2020). "Romney not welcome at CPAC after impeachment witness vote". Politico. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  56. ^ Glauber, Bill (February 24, 2017). "Suspended professor John McAdams to receive award at CPAC". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved October 23, 2017.
  57. ^ Blumenthal, Max (September 1, 2009). Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party. PublicAffairs. p. 191. ISBN 9780786750443.
  58. ^ "The Unbearable Whiteness of CPAC". Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. March 21, 2014.
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  60. ^ Doran, political reporter Matthew (July 31, 2019). "Right-wing provocateur who wanted female politician's legs 'taped shut' on his way to Australia". ABC News. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
  61. ^ McGowan, Michael (November 4, 2020). "Australian rightwing conference a mix of triumphalism and despair on day of US election". The Guardian. Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  62. ^ Brook, Samantha Hutchinson, Stephen (October 1, 2020). "Alt-right activist Lauren Southern dumped from Conservative conference". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved November 23, 2020.
  63. ^ "Official website". CPAC Brazil (in Portuguese).
  64. ^ "ACU Foundation Events". ACU Foundation. Retrieved August 14, 2019.
  65. ^ Jair Bolsonaro [@jairbolsonaro] (August 14, 2019). "-É com grande satisfação que após meses de trabalho anunciamos que o maior evento conservador do mundo, CPAC, será realizado pela 1ª vez no Brasil. Em breve divulgaremos grandes nomes da direita mundial que se farão presentes em São Paulo nos dias 11 e 12/OUT. Sigam: @cpacbrasil" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  66. ^ "Eduardo Bolsonaro tenta trazer ao Brasil maior evento conservador do mundo" (in Portuguese). Poder 360. May 18, 2019.
  67. ^ "American Conservative Union announces 'Japanese CPAC' in Tokyo". Washington Examiner. November 17, 2017.
  68. ^ Fordham, Evie (September 6, 2019). "Conservatives visit Hong Kong activist arrested on his way to CPAC in Japan". FOXBusiness.

External linksEdit