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The group has consistently gathered in or around Washington, D.C., every year for decades—and the road to the White House for any Republican presidential candidate goes through CPAC. More than 11,000 people attended CPAC in 2015, according to ACU and CPAC communications director Ian Walters, but even more are expected to attend in 2016. Rubio’s decision to let down more than 10,000 of the party’s hardest core conservative activists at a time when he needs them most isn’t likely to play well, but again the bigger thing is CPAC’s focus on its roots of electing Reagan to the White House this year—and Rubio’s decision to abandon Reagan’s legacy in practice, while in campaign speeches attempt to capture that same legacy that he’s snubbing.
The theme of CPAC this year is based upon President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 CPAC address: “Our Time Is Now.”
“Our time is now. Our moment has arrived,” President Reagan told the conservative gathering in 1981. “We stand together shoulder to shoulder in the thickest of the fight.”