NATIONAL HARBOR, MARYLAND — The organizers of the Conservative Political Action Convention announced on Friday that Republican frontrunner Donald Trump had backed out of his appearance at the conference scheduled for Saturday morning. Attendees were not surprised.
“That doesn’t surprise me in the least bit,” Ryan Wasson, a 23-year-old student at Hunter College, told ThinkProgress. “You hear a lot of anti-Trump rhetoric and that’s getting back to him. I think he wants to feel welcome, but I don’t think he would feel welcome and he shouldn’t feel welcome at a conservative conference.”
Wasson said Trump’s decision will exacerbate the conservative civil war, already seen in full force at CPAC. Many speakers at the conference have already criticized his candidacy and how his nomination would forever hurt the Republican Party.
Many CPAC attendees also opposed to Trump had been planning to walk out in protest during his Saturday morning speech, a potentially embarrassing moment for the GOP frontrunner.
The event organizers said his decision to drop out “sends a clear message to conservatives.”
— CPAC (@CPAC) March 4, 2016
Shortly after the announcement, Trump released a statement saying he will be in Wichita, Kansas for a campaign rally Saturday, so “he will not be able to speak at CPAC as he has done for many consecutive years.”
Valerie Greenfeld and her son, both Ted Cruz supporters, told ThinkProgress they were disappointed that Trump backed out because it was one of the main reasons they came to CPAC. “I would have liked to hear what he has to say, more on a personal level than what we heard from the debate last night,” she said.
Her son, Sam Greenfeld, a 20-year-old student at the University of Tampa, added that he doesn’t understand why Trump would back out of a conference with so many young attendees when the youth vote is vital to his campaign.
“I’m personally glad he’s not going to be here because I don’t like him very much, but that’s very surprising news,” he said. “I think Trump obviously is very emotionally sensitive. He tries to be a tough guy but he’s a pansy. The polls and the crowd here seem like it’s a majority Cruz fans, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump just got scared.”
Rick Collin, a Congressional staffer from Bismark, North Dakota, felt similarly.
“Maybe he was afraid he’d be booed,” he said. “There are a lot of people here who are not happy with Trump.”