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Nikki Haley speaks to conservatives ahead of Donald Trump. Here’s what you need to know

WASHINGTON — Hundreds of conservative activists have gathered near Washington, DC, to listen to Republican plans, attacks on President Joe Biden and Democrats, and the pleas of future GOP presidential candidates — including a Friday speech by Nikki Haley about her challenge to Donald Trump.

It’s time again for CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Haley, the only big-name Republican to date to announce a presidential run against Trump, speaks with CPAC delegates a day before the former president closes the conference with his speech on Saturday.

It remains to be seen whether Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and Trump-appointed UN ambassador, will address the former president directly during her speech. She has said supporters don’t ask her about Trump when she campaigns in early primary states like New Hampshire.

Haley has instead spoken out in constantly criticizing Biden, whom she will likely attack again in her speech at CPAC.

Here are some other things to watch out for during Friday’s session.

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CPAC: Donald Trump and Nikki Haley will attend; Ron DeSantis and Mike Pence don’t

What is CPAC?

CPAC is an annual meeting of conservative activists that was first held in 1974. It became famous as a launch pad for Ronald Reagan, the conservative pioneer who won the presidency in 1980.

This year’s CPAC will be made up of a bevy of Republican heavy hitters, but not as many as in years past.

Speakers include Texas Senator Ted Cruz, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, and hackneyed Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

A slimmed down CPAC

Not at the conference? Former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis are all potential presidential candidates for 2024. DeSantis will make his Iowa debut next week, appearing March 10 alongside Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. Haley returns to Iowa two days before DeSantis.

Other Republicans skipping the conference include Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, Majority House Governor Kevin McCarthy Glenn Youngkin, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell R-Ky.

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Conservative politicians are skipping CPAC as top organizer Matt Schlapp faces groping allegations from an unnamed Republican Herschel Walker aide from Georgia. The staffer is suing Schlapp and his wife, Mercedes Schlapp, according to a report from Politico.

When is CPAC?

CPAC began Wednesday night in National Harbor, Maryland, near Washington, and ends Saturday afternoon with Trump’s speech.

What is Haley’s pitch?

Since launching her campaign last month, Haley has called for a generational change among Republican and Democratic lawmakers and has proposed mandatory mental competence tests for politicians over the age of 75. Haley, 51, is decades younger than both Trump, 76, and President Joe Biden , 80.

She also recently responded to sexist remarks CNN host Don Lemon made on air. Lemon claimed that at 51, Haley was past her prime as a woman.

“To be clear, I am NOT advocating competency testing for middle-aged sexist CNN anchors,” she wrote on Twitter.

The Trump Factor

Trump slyly dug out Haley on Truth Social, his social media platform.

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“I told Nikki to follow her heart, not her ambition or beliefs. Who knows, stranger things have happened. She’s at 1%, not a bad start!!!” Trump wrote after Haley’s campaign stop in New Hampshire last month.

Emerson polls showed Republican primary voters supporting Trump 55%, compared to 25% supporting DeSantis, a 30 percentage point advantage. Haley received 5% support and Pence received 8% support.

How much will Trump go after DeSantis or Haley before the CPAC delegates? Tune in Saturday.

CPAC so far

CPAC delegates held a few meetings late Wednesday, with their first all-day session on Thursday. Deputies heard Biden-bashing from an arsenal of Republican speakers and forums with titles like “No Chinese Balloons Over Tennessee” and “Sacking The Woke Playbook.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What is CPAC 2023? Nikki Haley to speak; everything you need to know

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