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Cardenas: Christie Has to ‘Earn His Wings’ to Get CPAC Slot

By Cyrus Afzali and Kathleen Walter   |   Friday, 08 Mar 2013 05:21 PM

American Conservative Union chairman Al Cardenas this week expressed surprise over the flurry of coverage the organization has received for not inviting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to CPAC, saying that being Republican alone was not enough to secure an invite to the conference.

In an interview with Newsmax TV, Cardenas said that, contrary to widespread speculation, the decision to not invite Christie had nothing to do with his appearance with President Barack Obama following Superstorm Sandy. Cardenas said all decisions were made based simply on the desire to put together the best possible speaker slate.

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“We’ve never in our 40 years divulged who we invite or don’t and why. It’s a private decision. There are 30 Republican governors, 41 Republican senators and more than 200 members of Congress — along with all these great national leaders people want to listen to, such as Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Jeb Bush,” he said.

“You can only fit 30 in a three-day conference into the main ballroom, so to say why you didn’t invite the other 270 is unfair to them. Chris Christie had been invited last year, but we had to pick the 30 that had the best year and we did that. Hopefully, he’ll earn his wings and be back next year.”

This year’s CPAC roster features such names as Sens. Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey and Rand Paul, and renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson. Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is set to make his first speech since November’s election, and the event will close with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Cardenas credits the star power of Ronald Reagan for helping to build CPAC into “the most go-to conservative conference in the country.”

“Thanks to Ronald Reagan and his attraction and love for the youngsters who attended CPAC, we grew and grew. Of course, over the last few years, we’ve just taken an exponential growth curve to the point where last year, we had close to 10,000 people, and this year we’ll have the same. It’ll be a great conference,” he said.

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