Ronald Kessler reports in Newsmax that aides to Sen. McCain’s opponents were “stunned” by his decision not to show at CPAC this past week. According to CPAC officials the Senator had rejected invitations to speak, but tried to set up private receptions. Kessler goes on to report that CPAC’s higher officials were not overly impressed. “It was a classic McCain move, dissing us by going behind our backs,” said William J. Lauderback, executive vice president of the American Conservative Union, which sponsors the three-day conference.” Echoing this discontent was CPAC Chairman, David Keene saying, If you diss the girl before the dance, you’re not going to be dancing with the girl when the music starts.”
While the other candidates, notably Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney indicated what their campaigns may offer as the primaries unfolds, McCain’s absence from CPAC has seemed to fuel more fire between himself and many that make up the base of the GOP. However, Giuliani spoke effectively, talking about security issues – Iraq, The Patriot Act, and the power of free markets. He noticeably stayed away from areas that often put him at odds with some Conservatives. Mitt Romney seems to have treated CPAC as if it were a Pep rally for his campaign. Romney operatives were visible throughout, and many were trying to make connections to some of the Conservative base, which has been lukewarm to the former MA Governor.
While McCain’s absence is noteable, and at the present has to be viewed as a tactical error, perhaps if this was “indeed a snub” it could have been to distance himself from some of the harder elements of the GOP and position himself as a moderate.