CPAC poised to score 1 for Trump in GOP civil war: The Note

The gathering of conservatives gets underway as a tribute to all things Trump.

February 26, 2021, 6:01 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Can you have a battle for a party if only one side is invited to the fight?

The Conservative Political Action Conference has long been a colorful if sometimes unreliable gauge of the state of the movement that powers the Republican Party. This year … not so much.

With the GOP divided about its future, the biggest gathering of conservatives in the early days of the Biden presidency gets underway in Orlando, Florida, on Friday as a tribute to all things Donald Trump -- up to and including rehashed and baseless complaints about the election.

PHOTO: Technicians work on the stage before the start of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, on Feb. 25, 2021.
Technicians work on the stage before the start of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, on Feb. 25, 2021.
Joe Skipper/Reuters

Featured speakers include Donald Trump Jr., Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, Govs. Kristi Noem and Ron DeSantis, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Ambassador Richard Grenell and a wide range of pro-Trump House members and commentators. The former president himself, of course, speaks Sunday, in his first public speech since Jan. 20.

Not attending: Senators including Mitch McConnell, Ben Sasse or Mitt Romney; House members like Liz Cheney or Adam Kinzinger; former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley; former Vice President Mike Pence.

The theme of this year's CPAC is "America Uncanceled," though one speaker who had been booked was himself canceled for his extreme and anti-Semitic views.

But Trump and what he represents don't need to be "uncanceled" if they weren't canceled in the first place. It's hard to call it a comeback if the person and the movement in question never really left.

The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema

President Joe Biden could be closing out the week having achieved two milestones -- his first presidential trip to a disaster area and seeing the outcome of the initial steps in his administration's first major policy push.

In Texas, the president is expected to spend most of his visit surveying damage with Gov. Greg Abbott. The White House insists the trip is happening for humanitarian reasons, but the optics of the president appearing alongside a Republican governor in a state Biden lost but that his party hopes to flip won't be devoid of politics.

President Joe Biden speaks during an event in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in Washington.
President Joe Biden speaks during an event in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in Washington.
Evan Vucci/AP

On the ground, the president's plans also include a visit to one of the nation's first federal vaccination centers, located in Houston.

"This is an example of the kind of partnership between federal, state and local governments and public and private partners that's going to get this job done," Biden touted in the lead up to his trip.

Still, the bipartisan outreach has its limits. On Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki sidestepped a question about whether either of the state's GOP senators would travel with the president on Air Force One, telling reporters, "there are some limitations on space available" and that she didn't believe members of any party were joining his flight. She also did not indicate any plans for Sens. John Cornyn or Cruz to participate in events surrounding the visit.

The theme of bipartisanship -- or lack thereof -- will likely continue back in Washington, when the House votes on his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package.

The TIP with Kendall Karson

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is under siege.

The FBI is investigating his coronavirus task force over its early handling of nursing home deaths. His administration is also defending itself against accusations that its actions exacerbated the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes at the onset of the pandemic. Some state lawmakers in his own party are pushing to strip his sweeping emergency powers during the pandemic amid the fallout. And his political foes are calling for investigations into resurfaced accusations of sexual harassment that he has denied.

In this Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, file photo, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press conference.
In this Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, file photo, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press conference.
Seth Wenig/AP

Cuomo finds himself in far different environment than just a few months ago, when his leadership in the health crisis was lauded, his daily briefings brought a sense of calm to an unnerved nation and his demeanor was thought to be well-suited for New York. Now, the possibility of impeachment is being raised -- although the threat is just that at this stage, with little support in the legislature for a severe action.

He is now set to be grilled at his regular briefing, as the backlash unfolding before him becomes increasingly untenable, particularly when he's eyeing a fourth term in 2022.


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Friday morning's episode features ABC News Chief Global Affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz, who tells us why the Biden administration carried out a military airstrike in Syria Thursday night. ABC News Political Director Rick Klein tells us about the fractures on display in the GOP as Conservative Political Action Conference begins. And ABC News' Sasha Pezenik explains what we're learning about COVID "long haulers."


  • The Conservative Political Action Conference continues through Sunday in Orlando, Florida, with Gov. Ron DeSantis, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump Jr. among Friday's speakers. On Saturday, speakers include former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and former White House press secretary and candidate for Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders. On Sunday, former President Donald Trump is set to make his first speech since leaving office, closing out the conference at 3:40 p.m.
  • The House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Committee on Homeland Security will hold a joint hearing examining recent cybersecurity incidents affecting government and private sector networks, including the supply chain attack targeting SolarWinds Orion Software and other cyberattacks at 9:30 a.m.
  • The White House COVID-19 Response Team and public health officials hold a briefing at 11 a.m.
  • President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden travel to Texas. Jill Biden visits the Houston Food Bank at 12:50 p.m. (CST) and the president tours the Harris County Emergency Operations Center at 12:55 p.m. The Bidens tour the Houston Food Bank and meet volunteers at 2:20 p.m. At 5 p.m., the president delivers remarks at the FEMA COVID-19 vaccination facility at the NRG Stadium.
  • Sunday on ABC's "This Week": ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos goes one-on-one exclusively with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. Plus, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci joins "This Week." And the Powerhouse Roundtable discusses all the week's politics with former New Jersey Governor and ABC News Contributor Chris Christie, former Chicago Mayor and ABC News Contributor Rahm Emanuel, Democracy for America CEO and ABC News Contributor Yvette Simpson, and Dispatch Staff Writer and CNN Political Analyst Sarah Isgur.
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