March 13, 2013 -- quicklist: 1 title: The Top 13 Republicans You Won't Find at CPAC text: As conservative confabs go, CPAC is it.
The Conservative Political Action Conference happens every year at a big hotel in the Washington, D.C., area, and it's a conservative feast of many splendors: The GOP's creme de la creme deliver speeches in a cavernous ballroom, all manner of activist groups erect stalls all over the place (the John Birch Society has shown up in past years), and while conservative power players reconnoiter in the hallways, the Marriott generally teems with young, College-Republican types all hopped up on fiscal restraint and family values, hitting the bars and hitting on each other.
It's fun, sort of.
But the conference, which begins on Thursday, is mainly a debutante ball for upcoming presidential hopefuls and GOP stars. The headliners always make news; this year, Mitt Romney will deliver a speech, as will Rick Santorum, Marco Rubio, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and Rand Paul. Others, like Sen. Ted Cruz, will participate in smaller events off the main stage.
This year, some notable names have been left off the list. There's only so much space, and organizers couldn't invite everyone.
"This year's CPAC is set to be the largest and most exciting yet. With over 250 speakers, 32 panels, and dozens of stand-alone speeches, we are offering a stellar lineup of conservative elected officials, opinion-makers, and activist," said Al Cardenas, Chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC. "With limited time it is impossible to invite everyone we would wish to the conference. This year we have invited leaders who are focused on furthering conservative ideals, and we even invited a select number of those with whom we disagree."
From 2016 hopefuls, to a high-profile tea-partier, to some big-name GOP governors, here's a list of who's not on the program. Some weren't invited, some had better things to do, but all will be notably absent.
quicklist: 2 title: John Boehner text: The House speaker has been at the center of fiscal politics in D.C. for months, but that's not what will keep him from gathering with his fellow Republican elite.
Boehner was invited to CPAC, but according to a GOP source he has commitments in his district. The speaker's political group will hold an event for bloggers on Thursday, the first night of CPAC.
quicklist: 3 title: Herman Cain text: The former pizza CEO stirred up the Republican presidential campaign and gained notoriety as a tea-party favorite, leading the GOP's primary for a brief moment.
Since then, he's been posting links to CainTV on Facebook.
CPAC made no public invitation for Cain to appear.
quicklist: 4 title: Jon Huntsman text: Another also-ran in the 2012 presidential race, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman didn't get an invitation to CPAC, either.
Which is fitting, given his recent endorsement of gay marriage. CPAC has received a wave of criticism after excluding the gay Republican group GOProud.
quicklist: 5 title: Tim Pawlenty text: The former Minnesota governor not only ran for president last time around, dropping out before things really got interesting, he made Mitt Romney's short list for the vice presidential nomination, along with Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Paul Ryan, the VP nominee.
Alas, that wasn't enough to earn Pawlenty an invitation to speak. CPAC never announced asking Pawlenty to come.
Pawlenty will be in the Washington area this week, attending The Atlantic's Economy Summit in downtown D.C., where National Journal's Ron Fournier will interview him about fiscal politics "in the age of political bankruptcy."
quicklist: 6 title: Ron Paul text: Not everyone in the conservative movement likes Ron Paul, but he's been a star at CPAC.
Perhaps America's most famous libertarian, Paul won CPAC's presidential straw poll in 2011, to the surprise of many. His tea-partying son, Sen. Rand Paul, will deliver a speech at CPAC this year.
The former Texas congressman was invited to attend this year's conference, but CPAC confirmed that he won't be there.
quicklist: 6 title: Chris Christie text: The New Jersey governor might become the Republican Party's next presidential nominee.
But CPAC reportedly didn't invite him, and that's caused some controversy.
Citing Christie's decision to expand New Jersey's Medicaid program under President Obama's new health law, and his support for a Hurricane Sandy aid package that was not offset by other spending cuts, ACU's Al Cardenas criticized Christie (a past attendee) as not being conservative enough for CPAC.
"CPAC is like the all-star game for professional athletes; you get invited when you have had an outstanding year," Cardenas told National Journal. "Hopefully he will have another all-star year in the future, at which time we will be happy to extend an invitation. This is a conservative conference, not a Republican Party event."
Christie will be CPAC's most notable absence, the highest-profile 2016 prospect not to have any role in the conference.
quicklist: 7 title: Mary Fallin text: She's not the most widely known Republican politician, but the former congresswoman and current Oklahoma governor generated some momentary buzz as a speculated possibility for Mitt Romney's vice presidential nominee.
Whether or not that speculation was well founded, Fallin is certainly a conservative, and she rounds out the roster of GOP governors who have entered office in the last few years, as Republicans have performed well in state campaigns in 2010 and 2012.
CPAC made no public invitation for Fallin to speak at this year's conference.
quicklist: 8 title: Brian Sandoval text: The Nevada governor isn't conservative enough for some Republicans, at least on one key issue: abortion.
Sandoval generated some buzz in the early stages of Mitt Romney's VP search, until reporters caught onto the fact that Sandoval supports abortion rights—a qualification that all but nixed his chances to run on a Republican presidential ticket.
Sandoval's spokeswoman said the governor did not receive an invitation to CPAC this year.
This item has been updated. A CPAC official originally indicated Sandoval had been invited.
quicklist: 9 title: Bob McDonnell text: McDonnell will be at CPAC—sort of.
He'll serve as the keynote speaker of the Faith and Freedom Coalition's prayer breakfast on Friday, which is part of the official CPAC program. But The Washington Post reported last week that McDonnell was not invited to participate in the conference itself, and despite being a high-profile Republican governor who's widely viewed as conservative, he won't deliver a speech from CPAC's main stage.
quicklist: 10 title: Haley Barbour text: The former Mississippi governor isn't the most conservative politician in the Republican Party—in the past, he's pushed the GOP to be more open to immigration reform—but he's also urged members of his party to stay true to conservative ideologies.
Barbour was seen by some as a possible Republican presidential candidate for 2012, but he didn't run, and his presidential star began to fall amid controversy over his pardons as governor.
He will not speak at CPAC this year.
quicklist: 11 title: Susana Martinez text: The New Mexico governor is one of the Republican Party's rising stars. Female, Hispanic, and charismatic, Martinez rocked the Republican National Convention with a primetime speech, capturing more attention and enthusiasm than some more established GOP bigwigs.
A YouTube video of Martinez firing a handgun to pass a test and renew her permit, filmed in 2011, didn't hurt her conservative bona fides.
CPAC invited Martinez to speak this year, but she's not on the program. A spokesman told the Albuquerque Journal this week that Martinez won't attend because of business in her home state, with New Mexico's legislative session ending this weekend.
quicklist: 12 title: Nikki Haley text: Another governor who was invited but will not attend, South Carolina's Nikki Haley has gotten more press than most governors in the last few years.
Haley became the first female governor of South Carolina with her election in 2010, and since then she's been the subject of a Vogue profile. Her inability to deliver South Carolina for Mitt Romney as an endorser of the eventual VP presidential nominee may not have helped her standing as a national GOP power player, but Romney faced long odds in her home state anyway.
ABC News contacted Haley's office but has not heard back as to why she won't attend the conference.
quicklist: 13 title: Mike Pence text: If there's anyone who would fit in at CPAC, it's Mike Pence.
The newly elected Indiana governor has been a social-conservative advocate on the national stage since his time in the House of Representatives, and he spoke at the conference in 2010. But CPAC didn't announce an invitation to Pence this year, and Pence will not be on the program.