Real estate mogul and registered independent Donald Trump will be headed to the nation's capital later this month to mingle with Republican luminaries and deliver an address at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
“Donald Trump is an American patriot and success story with a massive following among small government conservatives,” Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, said in a press release. “I look forward to welcoming him back to the CPAC stage next week. Mr. Trump’s previous CPAC appearance was hugely popular among our attendees and we expect it will be even more popular this year.”
Trump spoke at the event in 2011, back when he was a registered Republican and considered a possible GOP presidential candidate. Later that year, he switched his registration to independent, before repeatedly floating the possibility of mounting a third-party presidential run in 2012. This all came after Trump's public obsession with birther theories about President Barack Obama.
His invitation has already drawn some backlash among conservative pundits. Commentator Michelle Malkin proclaimed on Twitter that "CPAC is dead," and John Podhoretz of Commentary Magazine called Cardenas a "dope" for the decision.
He followed up with this biting critique:
Thank you, CPAC, for destroying yourself so that you no longer have the power to embarrass the shit out of the rest of us.
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) March 5, 2013
Frequently touted as the largest annual gathering of conservatives, CPAC typically draws a number of the party's top figures, some of whom attend in part to test their support at the straw poll that closes out the event. A number of potential GOP presidential candidates have already confirmed their attendance, though organizers have faced scrutiny over not inviting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) despite his current stance as one of the nation's most popular governors.
Cardenas later told the National Journal that Christie hadn't achieved "all-star" status over the past year because he didn't stand with conservatives, supporting a $60 billion aid package for Hurricane Sandy victims and expanding Medicaid in New Jersey under Obama's health care law.
CPAC is set to take place in the Washington D.C., area from March 14-16. Below, a list of current speakers, via the ACU:
U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte; U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann; former U.S. Representative Ann Marie Beurkle; U.S. Representative Diane Black; U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn; former Florida Governor Jeb Bush; Producer, Writer and Consultant Pat Caddell; U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor; Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery Dr. Benjamin Carson; U.S. Senator Tom Coburn; U.S. Senator Ted Cruz; Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli; former U.S. Representative Artur Davis; U.S. Representative Sean Duffy and Rachel Campos-Duffy; Heritage Foundation President-Elect Jim DeMint; Heritage Foundation President Dr. Edwin Feulner; ACU Board Member Carly Fiorina; former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich; Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal; U.S. Senator Ron Johnson; Producer Mark Joseph; NRA President and ACU Board Member David Keene; Screenwriter Howie Klausner; NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre; U.S. Senator Mike Lee; Mayor of Saratoga Springs; UT Mia Love; former U.S. Representative Connie Mack; U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell; Producer Gerald Molen; U.S. Representative Tom Price; Radio Host and Breitbart TV Editor in Chief Larry O’Connor; former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin; U.S. Senator Rand Paul; Texas Governor Rick Perry; U.S. Senator Marco Rubio; U.S. Representative Paul Ryan; former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum; U.S. Representative Steve Scalise; Eagle Forum Founder Phyllis Schlafly; U.S. Senator Tim Scott; Director and Writer John Sullivan; U.S. Senator Pat Toomey; former U.S. Representative Allen West; and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.