Rep. Ron Paul (R.-Texas) speaking Feb. 4 to a Minnesota crowd.

When the American Conservative Union released the agenda Jan. 29 for this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference, people were surprised that the winner of the conference’s straw poll for the past two years was nowhere to be found.

Rep. Ron Paul (R.-Texas) would be unable to attend the conference due to travel constraints of his presidential campaign, said ACU Chairman Alberto R. Cardenas in a Feb. 2 press release.

“We will miss Congressman Ron Paul, a perennial favorite among our attendees,” he said. CPAC takes place February 9 – 11 at Washington’s Marriot Wardman Park hotel.

“Although a combination of factors might be at play, including Paul’s focus on the Maine caucuses, a changing of the guard at the top of CPAC’s management team is likely behind Paul’s exclusion,” Stephen Woodward said in a Jan. 31 article on

The Maine caucuses began Feb. 3 and will wrap up Feb. 11 with 24 delegates at stake.

Paul said he deliberately passed over campaigning in the Florida Primary in order to focus on states where delegates are rewarded proportionally, such as Nevada, Colorado and Minnesota.

Paul’s son, a Republican senator from Kentucky, is scheduled to speak at the conference for the second year in a row.

“We are honored to host Sen. Rand Paul, a leader of the next generation of committed constitutional conservatives, at CPAC 2012,” Cardenas said.

The news of Paul’s absence was met with skepticism from some of his supporters, who accused ACU of excluding him.

On Paul supporter posted on the official CPAC Facebook page:  “you all have lost your way it seems.. leaving someone out.. hmm maybe a winner in ur previous events Ron Paul 2012.. really the only viable candidate up there.. [sic].”

Another posted Ron Paul supporter tweeted, “Ron Paul excluded from 2012 cpac after winning the cpac straw poll the last 2 years because the establishment fears he will win. Speakout! [sic]”

CPAC attendees may notice a few other differences during this year’s event.

Campaign for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty are libertarian-friendly organizations that have co-sponsored CPAC in the past. Neither will be present this year, according to the CPAC website.

GOProud, an organization representing gay conservatives and their allies, was booted as a co-sponsor of this year’s conference after a vote by the ACU’s board of directors.

This will be the first Conservative Political Action Conference under Cardenas’ leadership, who was elected ACU Chairman in February 2011.

Following Cardenas’ takeover, ACU announced the March appointment of Gregg Keller as executive director. Keller had previously served as executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a socially conservative, Christian organization headed by Ralph E. Reed.