ORLANDO, Fla. — For the second year in a row, former Vice President Mike Pence was a no-show at the country’s most influential meeting of conservative activists.
Once a favorite at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, Mr. Pence would likely have suffered an unenthusiastic audience or worse if he showed up to speak at the four-day event that ended Sunday, attendees told The Washington Times.
Many in the crowd consider Mr. Pence disloyal to President Trump, who continues to command significant loyalty from the party faithful gathered here. Some still believe Mr. Pence should have more vocally supported Mr. Trump and his claims of election fraud and could have preserved his presidency by blocking the certification of President Biden’s victory when he presided over the electoral college count in Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.
“I personally don’t view him that way, but I know a lot of people that do,” Trent Leisy, of Windsor, Colorado, said.
If Mr. Pence showed up on the stage at CPAC, Mr. Leisy predicted, “He would get booed.”
Mr. Pence, who is eyed as a possible presidential candidate in 2024, joins a growing list of fellow conservatives who have fallen out of favor at CPAC because of Mr. Trump, who continues to reign over the GOP.
Other no-shows included Sen. Mitt Romney, of Utah, a former CPAC favorite who won the event’s straw poll in 2012, the year he ran for president on the GOP ticket as well as 2007, 2008 and 2009.
He has been a vocal opponent of Mr. Trump’s since the 2016 GOP primary and voted to find him guilty of impeachment charges in 2021.
Mr. Romney has not made an appearance at CPAC in years.
Other prominent no-shows conservatives included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, who fell out of favor with Mr. Trump after refusing to back Mr. Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was rigged in favor of President Biden. Mr. Trump regularly targets Mr. McConnell with attacks and recently said Mr. McConnell does not represent the GOP.
But Mr. Pence was the most prominent of top conservatives missing from this year’s conference.
Mr. Pence skipped the venue even as he made moves suggesting he is laying the groundwork for a 2024 run. He’s visited New Hampshire, Iowa and other early voting states and has begun raising money.
But his absence at CPAC underscores the difficulty Mr. Pence would have winning over the most conservative Republican primary voters who believe he did not work hard enough to support Mr. Trump or back his claims following the 2020 election.
Earlier this month, Mr. Pence defended his oversight of Congress when it certified the election, telling the Federalist Society, “President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election.”
Many Republicans, however, continue to believe election irregularities gave Mr. Biden an unfair advantage. They wanted Mr. Pence to follow Mr. Trump’s orders at the time and prevent Congress from certifying the results.
“I look at it as a loyalty thing,” Shane Bouvet, of Stonington, Illinois, said. “He should have been more of an advocate for the president.”
Many of those attending the event praised Mr. Pence for his conservative credentials and some lauded the job he performed as vice president. But they don’t see a role for him among conservatives as long as Mr. Trump dominates the party.
He finished near the bottom of the pack in the annual CPAC straw poll that measures support for possible Republican presidential contenders. He scored 1% of the vote along with scores of other potential GOP hopefuls including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.
Mr. Trump topped the poll with 59%, followed by GOP rising star Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida a distant second place with 28%. Everyone else finished with 2% or less.
Mr. Pence “made a phenomenal VP,” said Mr. Leisy, who added, “I don’t think it would go over well for him here. This is Trump’s party.”
Or they view other candidates in the emerging GOP field as more viable than Mr. Pence as a presidential candidate or even as a running mate for Mr. Trump if he runs again.
Mr. DeSantis, Mr. Cruz of Texas, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ms. Haley were more exciting candidates than Mr. Pence, said Jill Karana, a lawyer from Frankfort, Illinois.
“I actually like Pence,” Ms. Karana said. “I’m not sure he was able to legally do anything on Jan. 6. I do think he would be a good conservative president, but there are other people who would be better.”