Nikki Haley speaks to conservatives ahead of Donald Trump. Here’s what you need to know

WASHINGTON — Hundreds of conservative activists are gathered near Washington, DC, to listen to Republican plans, attacks on President Joe Biden and Democrats, and the pleas of prospective GOP presidential candidates – including a Friday speech by Nikki Haley about her challenge to Donald Trump.

Once again, it’s time for CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Haley, the only big-name Republican to announce a presidential run against Trump so far, speaks to CPAC delegates a day before the former president closes the conference with his address on Saturday.

It remains to be seen whether Haley, the former South Carolina governor and Trump-appointed United Nations ambassador, will directly call out the former president during her speech. She has said supporters aren’t asking her about Trump when she’s campaigned in early primary states like New Hampshire.

Haley has instead been vocal in continuously criticizing Biden, whom she will likely attack again in her speech at CPAC.

Here are some other things to look for during Friday’s session.

CPAC: Donald Trump and Nikki Haley will be there; Ron DeSantis and Mike Pence won’t

What is CPAC?

CPAC is an annual conservative activist meeting first held in 1974. It became famous as a launching pad for Ronald Reagan, the conservative trailblazer who won the presidency in 1980.

This year’s CPAC will feature a bevy of Republican heavy hitters – but not as many as in past years.

Speakers include Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and firebrand Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

A slimmed down CPAC

Not at the conference? Former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, all potential 2024 presidential candidates. DeSantis will make his Iowa debut next week, appearing with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds in the first-in-the-nation caucus state on March 10. Haley will return to Iowa two days before DeSantis.

Other Republicans skipping the conference also include Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Conservative politicians are skipping CPAC, as its top organizer Matt Schlapp faces groping allegations from an unnamed Georgia Republican Herschel Walker aide. The staffer is suing Schlapp and his wife, Mercedes Schlapp, according to a report from Politico.

When is CPAC?

CPAC began Wednesday night at National Harbor, Maryland, near Washington, and concludes with Trump’s speech on Saturday afternoon.

What is Haley’s pitch?

Since launching her campaign last month, Haley has called for a generational change among Republican and Democratic lawmakers and proposed mandatory mental competency tests for politicians older than 75. Haley, at 51, is decades younger than both Trump, 76, and President Joe Biden, 80.

She’s too recently hit back against sexist remarks CNN anchor Don Lemon made while on air. Lemon claimed that Haley at 51 was past her prime as a woman.

“To be clear, I am NOT calling for competency tests for Sexist middle-aged CNN anchors,” she wrote on Twitter.

The Trump factor

Trump has taken sly digs at Haley on Truth Social, his social media platform.

“I told Nikki to follow her heart, not her ambition or belief. Who knows, stranger things have happened. She’s polling at 1%, not a bad start!!!” Trump wrote after Haley’s New Hampshire campaign stopped last month.

Emerson polling showed Republican primary voters supported Trump 55% compared to 25% who supported DeSantis, a 30 percentage point advantage. Haley garnered 5% of support and Pence received 8% of support.

How much will Trump go after DeSantis or Haley before the CPAC delegates? Tune in Saturday.

CPAC so far

CPAC delegates held a few meetings late Wednesday, with their first all-day session Thursday. Delegates heard Biden-bashing from a panoply of Republican speakers and forums with titles like “No Chinese Balloons Over Tennessee” and “Sacking The Woke Playbook.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What is CPAC 2023? Nikki Haley to speak; everything you need to know

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