Today kicks off three days of conservative pageantry at the 38th annual Conservative Political Action Conference, held at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington. The large field of potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 will be well represented, but a major sideshow is stealing some attention. Some conservative leaders are boycotting the event in protest of the gay rights group GOProud's participation, among others. We take a look at the regulars, the surprise guests, and the surprise absences of this year’s CPAC.
Surprise show: “The Donald.” Businessman Donald Trump was a last-minute addition to the CPAC roster, though he’s been mulling over a presidential bid. He will address the conference at 3 p.m. on Thursday and speak about the lack of respect America is getting from other countries, particularly China.
Show: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks Friday morning at CPAC. Will the presumed front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination be able to overcome the criticisms that his past positions on social issues and health care have raised among the party faithful?
Show: South Dakota Sen. John Thune says he'll decide by the end of February whether to make a presidential bid. Thune is scheduled to speak at CPAC on Friday afternoon.
Show: Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., the tea party's spokeswoman on the State of the Union address, kicked off the event on Thursday.
No show: Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, will sit out CPAC for a third year.
Show: Texas Gov. Rick Perry, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, is scheduled to speak at CPAC. Perry is among a handful of Republicans to say "rule-me-out" of a 2012 presidential run.
Show: Newt Gingrich, House speaker during the Clinton era, delivered Thursday's lunch address. Gingrich continues to tease the media and hint at a presidential run, but he has yet to confirm his candidacy.
No show: Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, has blasted the conference for becoming "increasingly more libertarian."
No show: Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., is boycotting the conference based on its inclusion of Republican gay groups, such as GOProud.
Show: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty preaches both fiscal and social conservatism. He may be working this weekend to shake off the moderate label he’s inherited from his home state. Tim Alberta at National Journal's Hotline says Pawlenty “probably has the most to gain from his CPAC appearance.”