Republicans gathered at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday to cheer on their conservative heroes. But they also had an opportunity to shame GOP politicians they deemed not pro-Trump enough, casting ballots for the “phoniest ‘conservative’ lawmaker.”
Next to a stuffed donkey with a fake elephant’s snout, attendees voted for the likes of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who led the ballot count as of Thursday afternoon. One prominent GOP Trump critic wasn’t an option, though—because everybody already knew he’d win in a landslide.
“Of course you can’t have Romney out here,” said the CPAC organizer running the vote, who declined to give his name on the grounds he’d be fired. “He’d get all the votes.”
CPAC chief Matt Schlapp banned Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) from the annual conservative confab in January after Romney cast the sole Republican vote in the Senate for impeachment, claiming that he couldn’t guarantee Romney’s physical safety. And while there was no evidence that Romney would actually have been at risk on Thursday, CPAC-goers still raged about their party’s former presidential nominee, with Romney often seeming as much a target at CPAC as the Democratic presidential candidates.
Speakers repeatedly slammed Romney from the stage. Trump ally Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) asked the crowd whether they’d prefer Romney or Trump at the conference—to cheers in favor of the president. Schlapp declared that snubbing Romney had worked out “just fine.”
On Thursday morning, young conservative star and Turning Point USA chief Charlie Kirk encouraged a crowd to boo Romney’s name every time they hear it.
“Every time his name is mentioned you should react this way,” Kirk said. “Because he lied to every single person in this room.”
Kirk portrayed Romney as a dinosaur of the pre-Trump GOP, to whoops from the crowd.
“The party of Mitt Romney was a party that did not fight,” Kirk said. “It was a party that wanted to preserve the ruling class.”
CPAC attendees claimed to be just as sick of their party’s one-time standard bearer.
“I never liked him, and I’m glad he’s not here,” said Diane Ventura, who was at CPAC to sell “Trump Towels,” a commemorative towel modeled on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Terrible Towel.
“That is the most jealous man on the planet,” agreed Dion Cini, a fellow Trump Towel vendor.
Romney was also a target for the conservative pundits roaming the floor at CPAC. Newsmax host John Cardillo claimed Romney voted in favor of impeachment just to position himself as a “Never Trump” foil to the president.
“He wanted that dubious distinction,” Cardillo said.
Sinclair host Eric Bolling summed up Romney’s status as CPAC’s enemy No. 1.
“He should switch parties,” Bolling said.