While politicians and pundits, including former President Donald Trump, spend this weekend at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, other 2024 hopefuls are traveling to Florida to woo deep-pocketed donors at a competing event. 

Of the 114 announced speakers at CPAC, which include ​​Sens. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, and Rick Scott, R-Fla.; Reps. Marjorie Taylor Green, R-Ga., and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.; and 2024 presidential candidates, former South Carolina gov. Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy; the name of one GOP celebrity is conspicuously missing. 

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to launch his own bid for president after the conclusion of Florida’s legislative session, will be attending a closed-door retreat hosted by the conservative group Club for Growth in lieu of making an appearance at CPAC, CBS reports, breaking with precedent that the event was an essential pitstop for potential presidential nominees. 

The Club for Growth retreat will feature about 100 donors and even more 2024 hopefuls than CPAC, according to CBS, including Haley and Ramaswamy, who are attending both events, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and former Vice President Mike Pence. 

The former president was not invited to the retreat, which will be located less than five miles from his Mar-a-Lago estate. 

The overlapping schedules, with CPAC running Wednesday thru Saturday, and the retreat being held Thursday thru Saturday, was an intentional decision made by the Club For Growth, and represents a growing sense that CPAC has become too tied to Trump and his reelection, CBS reports. 

Trump and DeSantis are holding fundraisers just a few miles apart
Here’s what Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis said about Nikki Haley’s campaign for president

Once supportive of Trump, Club For Growth began to distance itself from the former president following the 2022 midterm elections, with the organization’s president saying that the GOP should be looking for a more electable candidate, according to reporting done by multiple news outlets.

In the intervening months, for those looking for an alternative to Trump, support has coalesced around DeSantis, who is already making visits to key primary states as part of a book tour, with stops in Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina planned for later in March, the New York Times reports. 

The governor’s book, “The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Renewal”, where he articulates a unique political vision and touts his resume, appears to set the stage for his presidential run.

Though polls are in surprising disagreement about who comes out on top, DeSantis and Trump are the clear frontrunners for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination so far.