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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. CPAC is hosted by the American Conservative Union (ACU).[1]

Conservative Political Action Conference
CPAC logo 2017.png
The official logo for CPAC 2017
Dates February/March (dates vary)
Frequency Annual
Location(s) National Harbor, Maryland, U.S.
Inaugurated 1973; 44 years ago (1973)
Most recent February 22 – 25, 2017
Organized by American 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.

Speakers have included Donald Trump,[2] Ronald Reagan,[3][4][5] George W. Bush,[6] Dick Cheney,[7] Pat Buchanan,[8] Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich,[6] Sarah Palin, Ron Paul,[9] Mitt Romney,[6] Tony Snow,[6] Glenn Beck,[10] Rush Limbaugh,[11] Ann Coulter,[7] Allen West,[12] Michele Bachmann,[13] Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Gary Johnson, Mike Pence, Jeanine Pirro, Betsy DeVos, Lou Dobbs, Nigel Farage, and other conservative public figures.



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 2017 CPAC[14]

The conference was founded in 1973 by the American Conservative Union and Young Americans for Freedom as a small gathering of dedicated conservatives.[15][16] The 2010 CPAC featured co-sponsorship for the first time from the John Birch Society and GOProud. 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.[17][18][19] The 2011 CPAC was Donald Trump's first speaking appearance at CPAC. His appearance at CPAC was organized by GOProud, in conjunction with GOPround supporter Roger Stone, who was close with Trump. GOPround pushed for a write-in campaign for Donald Trump at CPAC's presidential straw poll. 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." For the 2012 CPAC conference, the ACU board voted to not invite GOProud or the John Birch Society to the 2012 conference.[20] The 2011 CPAC speech Trump gave is credited for helping kick-start his political career within the Republican Party.[21][22][23] The 2015 CPAC featured Jamila Bey who became the first atheist activist to address CPAC's annual meeting.[24] The 2016 CPAC featured co-sponsorship for the first time from the Log Cabin Republicans.[25]


In 2014, CPAC extended an invitation to the American Atheists, which was immediately withdrawn on the same day due to controversial statements.[26]

White nationalist Richard Spencer arrived at CPAC on 23 February 2017 as a symbol of the alt-right efforts to conform with conservatives, and was subsequently ejected.[27] Numerous news organizations described the incident as well as a conversation between Steve Bannon and Matt Schlapp as a possible sign of allying the alt-right to mainstream conservatism in the United States, and raised questions on whether the alt-right would possibly become the dominant viewpoint in the Republican Party.[28][29][30][31]

Milo YiannopoulosEdit

In December 2016, CPAC extended an invitation to conservative blogger Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at the event, despite his history of inflammatory and controversial views on feminism, racial minorities, and transgender people. The invitation was canceled when the Reagan Battalion re-posted a video of 2016 and 2015 YouTube videos[32] 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 "Father Michael", a Catholic priest.[33] In his resignation speech to Breitbart News, Yiannopoulos says that he was sexually abused at the age of 13 and apologized for his comments, stating that he was vehemently opposed to child sexual abuse and that his provocative style was not intended to marginalize the subject matter.[34]

Annual straw pollEdit

Straw poll results at the 2015 CPAC in National Harbor, Maryland on February 28, 2015.

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
1976 Ronald Reagan[35][36] n/a George Wallace n/a
1980 Ronald Reagan n/a n/a n/a
1984 Ronald Reagan n/a n/a n/a
1986 Jack Kemp[37][38] n/a George H.W. Bush n/a
1987 Jack Kemp[39] 68 Patrick Buchanan 9
1993 Jack Kemp[40] n/a n/a n/a
1995 Phil Gramm[41] 40 Bob Dole 12
1998 Steve Forbes[42] 23 George W. Bush 10
1999 Gary Bauer[43][44] 28 George W. Bush 24
2000 George W. Bush[45] 42 Alan Keyes 23
2005 Rudy Giuliani[46] 19 Condoleezza Rice 18
2006 George Allen[47] 22 John McCain 20
2007 Mitt Romney[47] 21 Rudy Giuliani 17
2008 Mitt Romney[47] 35 John McCain 34
2009 Mitt Romney[47][48] 20 Bobby Jindal 14
2010 Ron Paul[47][49] 31 Mitt Romney 22
2011 Ron Paul[50] 30 Mitt Romney 23
2012 Mitt Romney[51] 38 Rick Santorum 31
2013 Rand Paul[52] 25 Marco Rubio 23
2014 Rand Paul[53] 31 Ted Cruz 11
2015 Rand Paul 26 Scott Walker 21
2016 Ted Cruz 40 Marco Rubio 30

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]


Stage for CPAC 2017

Every year there are several awards given to notable conservatives. Although the exact lineup of awards varies, five awards are usually presented:

  • The "Ronald Reagan Award" is the highest award given at CPAC. It is awarded to dedicated activists, regardless of how high their profile may be on a national scale. ACU director David Keene described the award in 2008: "The winners of this award, our highest honor, are not household names, but the men and women working in the trenches who sacrifice and, in so doing, set an example for others."[55] This award is different from the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award, which is not affiliated with CPAC.
  • The "Jeane Kirkpatrick Academic Freedom Award" is presented annually in honor of Jeane Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick was affiliated with the American Conservative Union for many years.
  • "Defender of the Constitution Award"
  • The "Blogger of the Year Award" is given to a leading conservative member of the blogosphere.
  • The "Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award" is named after the late actor and political activist Charlton Heston.
  • The "We The People Award" for the most conservative state legislature, an award determined by evaluating how closely elected officials adhere to conservative principles.


  1. ^ "CPAC 2015 Straw Poll: Rand Paul wins again – but Scott Walker is surging". The Washington Times. 2015-02-28. Retrieved 2015-08-16. 
  2. ^ The Washington Times "In CPAC speech, Trump hints of White House bid". The Washington Times. 
  3. ^ Kilpatrick, James J. (1977-02-10). "Tired of the cold". Bangor Daily News. Washington Star Syndicate. p. 12. Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  4. ^ Evans, M. Stanton (1979-02-24). "CPAC: Barometer of the Right". The Hour. Norwalk, Conn. Los Angeles Times Syndicate. p. 4. Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  5. ^ "Reagan Gives Conservatives A Pep Talk". 1986-01-31. Retrieved 2011-02-13. 
  6. ^ a b c d Turnbull, Jessica (2008-02-14). "Groups travel to conference". The Daily Collegian. State College, Pa. Archived from the original on 12 December 2012. Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Goldberg, Michelle (2003-02-04). "Shock troops for Bush". Salon. Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  8. ^ Walters, Robert (1974-01-28). "Buchanan: A Dissenting View". St. Petersburg Times. Washington Star-News Service. p. 3-A. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  9. ^ Gillman, Todd J. (2011-02-11). "Texas Rep. Ron Paul gets cheers at conservative conference, remains mum about Senate, presidential ambitions". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  10. ^ Parsons, Christi (2010-02-21). "Glenn Beck to Republican Party: Repent". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  11. ^ "Rush Limbaugh calls on conservatives to take back nation". 2009-02-28. Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  12. ^ Montopoli, Brian (2011-02-09). "Allen West Gets CPAC Keynote Slot". Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  13. ^ Murray, Mark. "The 'exceptional' debate". 2010-02-22. Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  14. ^ Guardian Wires (24 February 2017). "Donald Trump addresses CPAC 2017 - live". Retrieved 7 July 2017 – via YouTube. 
  15. ^ 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 
  16. ^ 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 9780914169062. 
  17. ^ CPAC Reagan Award Winner
  18. ^ Karl, Jonathan (February 19, 2010). "Far-Right John Birch Society 2010". ABC News. Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  19. ^ GOProud at CPAC creates controversy, calls for boycotts,, December 16, 2009
  20. ^ "GOProud and Birchers ousted as CPAC co-sponsors (David Horowitz survives vote)". The Daily Caller. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  21. ^ "GOProud Leads 'Trump In 2012' Movement At CPAC - Towleroad". 10 February 2011. Retrieved 7 July 2017. 
  22. ^ "Gay GOProud Founder Chris Barron Launches Loathsome 'LGBT for Trump' Campaign: WATCH - Towleroad". 15 June 2016. Retrieved 7 July 2017. 
  23. ^ Correspondent, Chris Moody, CNN Senior Digital. "How gay conservatives helped launch Donald Trump". CNN. Retrieved 7 July 2017. 
  24. ^ "In a first, atheist activist addresses conservative conference". The Washington Post. 2012-12-14. Retrieved 2015-02-28. 
  25. ^ "'Smooth sailing' for gay Republicans at CPAC". 4 March 2016. Retrieved 7 July 2017. 
  26. ^ "Atheists Invited, Then Uninvited, to CPAC". Political Outcast. 2014-02-26. Retrieved 2017-02-20. 
  27. ^ Sommer, Will (2017-02-24). "Conservatives at CPAC grapple with the rise of the alt-right". TheHill. Retrieved 2017-02-25. 
  28. ^ "Conservatives Are So Confused About the Alt-Right". New Republic. 2017-02-24. Retrieved 2017-02-25. 
  29. ^ "Conservatives can't figure out whether to embrace or denounce the alt-right". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2017-02-25. 
  30. ^ "CPAC's Flirtation With the Alt-Right Is Turning Awkward". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2017-02-25. 
  31. ^ Williamson, Elizabeth (2017-02-24). "Big Tent or Circus Tent? A Conservative Identity Crisis in the Trump Era". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-02-25. 
  32. ^ Ohlheiser, Abby; Ohlheiser, Abby (2017-02-21). "The 96 hours that brought down Milo Yiannopoulos" – via The Washington Post. 
  33. ^ Hartmann, Margaret. "CPAC Blasted for Milo Yiannopoulos Invite After Pedophilia Remarks Resurface". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2017-02-21. 
  34. ^ "FULL REMARKS: MILO Delivers Speech at Press Conference Amid Video Scandal". Breitbart. 2017-02-21. Retrieved 2017-02-21. 
  35. ^ Conservatives drop third party idea, attempt to win nomination for Reagan February 17, 1976
  36. ^ "Conservatives abandon talk of a third party, throw their support behind Reagan". The Associated Press. February 16, 1976. Retrieved November 9, 2010. 
  37. ^ President Is 'Saving Best Stuff for Last Act' Gadsden Times – Feb 2, 1986
  38. ^ Gailey, Phil (February 1, 1986). "G.O.P. Strategists Clash Over a Presidential Poll". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331 
  39. ^ President Is 'Saving Best Stuff for Last Act' Schenectady Gazette - Feb 21, 1987
  40. ^ "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. 22 February 1993. ISSN 0882-7729. 
  41. ^ Gramm gets support in conservative straw poll February 12, 1995
  42. ^ Forbes tops Bush in presidential straw poll of conservatives; Buchanan, Gingrich tie for third February 1, 1998
  43. ^ Neal, Terry M. (31 January 1999). "Bauer Planning Steps for Presidential Bid". Washington DC: Washington Post Company. p. A2. Retrieved 2010-11-06. 
  44. ^ "Conservative activist Bauer runs for president". Life Advocate. Retrieved March 8, 2015. 
  45. ^ "Bush wins conservative poll; Forbes supporters impressed; Governor wins 42 percent, Keyes second at 23 percent". Washington Post Company. 23 January 2000. Retrieved 2010-11-06. 
  46. ^ "Bracing for the worst". The Washington Times. 23 February 2005. Retrieved March 8, 2015. 
  47. ^ a b c d e Danielle Kurtzleben (11 February 2011). "CPAC Straw Poll Not Predictive of Eventual Nominee". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  48. ^ Sam Stein (31 March 2009). "Romney Wins CPAC Poll, Palin Tied For Third". Huffington Post. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  49. ^ Brenda Shepard; Mark Murray (21 February 2010). "Ron Paul wins CPAC straw poll". NBC News. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  50. ^ Michael Falcone (12 February 2011). "Ron Paul Wins 2011 CPAC Straw Poll, Sarah Palin Finishes a Distant 9th Place". ABC News. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  51. ^ Josh Lederman (12 February 2012). "Santorum suggests Romney rigged CPAC straw poll victory". The Hill. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  52. ^ Stephen Dinan; David Sherfinski (16 March 2013). "Rand Paul wins The Washington Times-CPAC 2013 Straw Poll". Washington Times. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  53. ^ James Hohmann (8 March 2014). "A Rand Paul rout in CPAC straw poll". Politico. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  54. ^ Patrick Svitek (January 9, 2017). "Rogue Texas elector explains decision to back Ron Paul". The Texas Tribune. 
  55. ^ CPAC Pleased to Present Annual Ronald Reagan Award to Jessica Echard

External linksEdit