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Jim DeMint to Boycott CPAC

The last time I wrote about social conservatives’ boycott of CPAC due to the participation of GOProud, a Republican gay-rights group, I predicted that it would have little impact on the success of the event unless major speakers or financial backers began to pull out. But now Sen. Jim DeMint, a regular speaker at the conference, has announced that he’ll be skipping it this year:

“With leading conservatives organizations not participating this year, Sen. DeMint will not be attending. He hopes to attend a unified CPAC next year,” DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton said in an e-mail.

Prominent social conservatives have dropped out of the event and criticized it for its inclusion of the gay conservative group GOProud. Rep. Jim Jordan, who heads the House’s Republican Study Committee, also has joined the boycott.

This in itself isn’t a huge blow to CPAC. But it could be a sign of more problems to come. DeMint is highly influential in the conservative movement, and his decision could make it easier for other speakers to drop out of the conference as well.

And while it’s unlikely that prospective candidates for the Republican presidential nomination will drop out of the event — they wouldn’t want to risk alienating disparate segments of the conservative movement at this point — it could make it more difficult for the American Conservative Union, which runs CPAC, to book prominent speakers next year.

CPAC makes a good deal of its money off students, who attend the event to hear speeches from top conservative leaders. If the conference isn’t able to draw as many big names, it may start to lose out on student fees.

Over at Slate, Dave Weigel also notes that Rep. Mike Pence hasn’t confirmed whether he’ll be speaking. Pence is considered more mainstream than DeMint, and if he’s a no-show, that would be a major indicator that the conference’s influence in the movement is waning.