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Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) chairman Matt Schlapp runs the nation’s premier annual gather of conservatives, but the 2022 edition has a different feel after Russia invaded Ukraine on the event.
“As tragic as it is, it’s kind of what we understand the political situation to be… we have an administration that’s failing on all cylinders,” Schlapp told Fox News Digital from his private green room backstage at The Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando as the conference aired on screens throughout the room.
“The economy, this whole woke culture where everyone is being canceled, pushing socialism, ending our energy independence,” Schlapp continued. “The most tragic part of all of this his policies is projecting vacillation and weakness and confusion overseas.”
Average Americans often mock Biden over gaffes and faux pas that have become commonplace during his public speaking events, so Schlapp suspects that his dialogue with world leaders doesn’t go much better.
“What do you think happens when he talks to these world leaders and these tyrants around the globe? So it’s actually a very serious thing,” Schlapp said.
Schlapp, a hands-on leader who curates every detail of CPAC and asked producers to adjust the lighting of the event’s main stage when he noticed something on a monitor that wasn’t up to his standards from the corner of his eye when talking to Fox News Digital. He’s been running CPAC since 2014 and senses newfound distress this year as Russia and Ukraine dominate the news cycle.
“As much as there is enthusiasm here at CPAC, I also think there is concern and worry about how bad it could get,” he said.
Matt’s wife, former White House director of strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp, was on hand for the joint interview and elaborated on how Russia’s invasion could personally impact CPAC attendees.
“It’s not only how bad it can get, but remember, what is going to be the impact that a Russia-Ukraine war will have on Americans? So the big question is, how will it impact the already rising inflation? The growing, increasing energy prices and food prices? This is impacting all Americans,” Mercedes told Fox News Digital. “So it’s really putting that into perspective as well, and you’ve seen so many of our speakers talk about the issue because it really is on the minds of the people here at the conference.”
Most CPAC events feature thousands of conservatives who are on the same page when it comes to ideology, however many attendees hold differing views when it comes to handling Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
“I talk to so many people that are here, in hallways and everywhere else, and there is a difference of opinion. I think most people who are at CPAC are willing to listen to the case to intervene in places like what’s going on with the aggression and the takeover of Ukraine,” Matt said. “They’re willing to listen to the case, but the case has to be made. It hasn’t been made at all. You can’t stumble through a few que cards and expect the American people to say, ‘That’s worth our treasure, or the blood of our children.’”
Mercedes pointed out one thing that most conservative Americans are in lockstep.
“American cannot be weak. That is the most important message coming out of CPAC,” she said. “We need a strong American with a strong national security, economic security as well, and that’s the concern that we’re seeing.”
Mercedes feels Americans already have a shaky foundation under Biden, who “has all the wrong priorities,” and the invasion of Ukraine is forcing people to recognize he’s not fit to lead the nation during wartime.
“He’s the one that’s going to be managing an international crisis? That’s where I think you see a growing concern,” she said.
“It’s interesting how the charges were made that Trump was in the pocket of Putin, that he was Putin’s puppet, that Trump would be a warmonger, he’d have a hair trigger,” Matt said as Mercedes added, “That’s he’d start World War III was the other.”
“They made these terrible charges against him, actually when he got into the presidency, he did much what Ronal Reagan did. He well-funded the military, he was tough, when he drew a line you knew he was going to stay there. No one questioned the fact that he might take some aggressive steps, but in the end the tyrants stayed in their boxes,” Matt said.
The Schlapps feel Russian President Vladimir Putin would have stayed out of Ukraine if Trump was still the commander-in-chief.
“They didn’t do anything for four years and neither did [China president] Xi,” Matt said as Mercedes noted the polarized nation under Biden doesn’t exactly help ease tensions abroad.
“When you see such division within our own country where we’re more focused on talking to our military about critical race theory or all of these other… when you’re not honing in on military readiness, and cutting defense spending, it puts us again in this weakened position,” Mercedes said. “I think the Russians saw this clearly… it’s why you’re seeing this aggressive behavior.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is expected to remain the prominent topic of CPAC on Saturday when Trump himself takes the stage.
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Fox News’ Angelica Stabile contributed to this report.