'It's sad': Conservatives lament the collapse of CPAC since Trump came along
Donald Trump at CPAC (Photo by Nicolas Kamm for AFP)

As the 2023 CPAC gathering wraps up in Maryland, Republican activists are expressing their dismay with the turn the conservative gathering has taken and wonder if it will survive now that it has been taken over by the MAGA crowd.

With attendance down, likely due in equal parts to the sexual assault allegations levied at founder Matt Schlapp and key Republicans staying away, ABC reports that this year's convention was more Trump-centric than any in recent memory.

However, according to one attendee, CPAC needs more Trump and fewer alternatives.

"It is a broad cross section, but that's kind of a bad thing, you almost don't want that," explained Joe Walters from Westchester County, N.Y., before adding, "I wish it were more Trumpian in some sense."

Comments like that have some conservatives worried.

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"Ten years ago, it was an opportunity to test your messages to conservative leaders and influencers all over the country and to have a big audience get to know you from the podium and everything else that was included. And I don't think that's where it is today. I think it's a narrow, small tent," lamented one aide to a GOP lawmaker. "I think last time I was there, it almost felt like a college crowd than it did a serious thinker crowd."

"As somebody that's been involved in the movement for 20-plus years, it's sad, because it was at one time the premier event for conservatives to come together," they continued before adding, "I think there's a lot of people that hope so. But there's gonna have to be a wholesale change over there, and I don't see that coming anytime soon," the source said. "Sometimes you just have to have a hard reset."

The ABC report adds, "With Trump's sway at CPAC, even attendees looking for alternatives to the former president in the next election sounded doubtful."

"I haven't talked to anyone that's a DeSantis supporter. I've only really seen Trump people," said Ben Kelley who supports the Florida governor. "Maybe if I ask around, more will be for DeSantis."

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