Former Republican National Chairman Michael Steele is skewering the head of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference for not inviting popular New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to its annual event.
"I think the Chris Christies of the world need to be at CPAC," he told fellow guest Al Cardenas on Thursday night's Hardball. "I think they represent the power of Republicanism on the East Coast. To be the governor of a blue state like New Jersey, and you're not speaking at this gathering of young, conservative activists around the country, to me is mind-boggling."
Christie, of course, was vilified by the right after praising President Obama’s relief efforts following Hurricane Sandy during election season last year. And Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who was also surprisingly not invited, has been skewered by some in his party for green-lighting a transportation bill that included new taxes. (The event is largely seen as a stepping stone for GOPers considering a presidential run.)
But Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union--the group that puts on CPAC--claimed Christie and McDonnell were left out because there are only so many slots.
Cardenas noted there are 47 Republican senators, 30 governors and more than 200 House members. "What we've got to do is select 20," he told Hardball’s Chris Matthews on Thursday, the first day of the conference. Three governors, he said, were chosen: Texas' Rick Perry "because his state is the number one state in job creation," Louisiana's Bobby Jindal because he's a "bright, intellectual young leader of the party" and Wisconsin's Scott Walker because "he's doing great things in our view."
Cardenas earlier in the day told reporters that Christie “didn’t deserve to be on the all-star selection… for decisions that he made.”
Matthews surmised CPAC’s theory was, “invite the noisemakers and snub the people who might actually lead you out of the wilderness.”
If you look at the scheduled speaking times, CPAC's priorities are clear. Sen. Ted Cruz is allotted 33 minutes of speaking time, Sarah Palin has 16 minutes, and Donald Trump gets 14 minutes. Down at the bottom are Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan with 11 minutes a piece.
Matthews asked former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele if Trump’s conservative message at CPAC could be overshadowed by all of his birther talk about President Obama.
“I think that characterization can be put behind Donald Trump…Let’s see what the man says tomorrow,” said Steele, telling Matthews that no one's talking about the birther issue "but you. You're the only person bringing it up."
“You know why?" Matthews said. "Because people who think that the president is an illegal immigrant shouldn't be talking out loud almost anywhere."
Cardenas said Trump was invited because he’s a “successful businessman” who can reflect on the realities of today’s economy. “I think he’ll be a positive influence on the youngsters here.”