American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp has had enough of Donald Trump.
Trump decided to skip the Conservative Political Action Conference one day before his scheduled visit, and cited his desire to campaign in Kansas as an explanation. But Schlapp told the Washington Examiner that Trump bailed because he would not agree to the format that every other GOP presidential candidate agreed to follow.
As Schlapp strolled the hallway behind CPAC's main stage, he expressed his frustration to a CPAC attendee he recognized. Schlapp said Trump was "trying to run us over," and did not want to take questions during his appearance.
"That's bulls--t!" Schlapp exclaimed of Trump's purported demands.
In a subsequent interview with the Examiner, Schlapp insisted CPAC had no personal animus toward Trump, but that he wanted to hold a fair conference.
"You can't both say 'I'm going to claim the Reagan mantle, I'm a Reagan conservative,' and make this kind of a decision," Schlapp said. "I think it's unfortunate. We want him here. We have a lot of respect for him. He's the front-runner in the race."
"If you're competing against other conservatives for the nomination, you got to get the same amount of time as everyone else and you got to answer questions," he added.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks answered the Examiner's question about whether a disagreement existed about the event's format by stating in an email that Trump wanted to campaign in Kansas.
Trump's decision to skip the conservative mega-conference may prove politically advantageous, as there appears to be a large anti-Trump current running through CPAC that is populated by right-leaning individuals of all stripes.
Brian Hawkins, a veteran who came to CPAC sporting a cowboy hat and carrying a "Veterans Against Trump" sign, told the Examiner he would leave the Republican Party if Trump becomes its nominee.
"I've been to Afghanistan, deployed there, worked with the Afghan leaders who put their lives on the line working with the U.S. soldiers, and afterwards they applied to come to the U.S.," Hawkins said. "So to hear Donald Trump say all these immigrants just want to come here and leech off of the American tax dollars, it's simply untrue."
Hawkins also worries that Trump would alienate minority voters who may be inclined to unite behind the GOP nominee.
"As a black person, I listen to some of the rhetoric and I'm like, this party doesn't want me," Hawkins said. "The rhetoric is very inflammatory and unwelcoming and inhospitable to minorities, which is very unfortunate because the Republican Party has issues of economic hope and opportunity and economic mobility that we can bring to the minority voters such as school choice, eliminating the minimum wage, criminal justice reform, reforming occupational licensing. We have the issues that these voters care about, but instead we'd rather demagogue and incite hatred of other people than be a big-tent Republican Party that Ronald Reagan wanted us to be."
Hawkins said he supported Marco Rubio, and added that he "could hold my nose [and vote] for Cruz, but not for Trump." If Trump's the nominee, Hawkins said he would support Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
Other attendees told the Examiner they would support Trump if he wins the nomination because they believe the Democratic nominee would be much worse. But some attendees, like Grizzly Joe, appeared conflicted.
"I got to tell you I've really wrestled with myself if it's Trump versus Clinton, would I vote for Clinton? I mean this is something I've actually debated," Joe said. "Do I vote for the evil that we know or do I vote for the P.T. Barnum that we also don't know? That's the thing that's been going on in my head."
Joe, a blogger with a beard making him look like a member of ZZ Top, said he's a Cruz-Rubio fan who at this moment would support Trump over Clinton.
Others expressed exasperation at Republican politicians but said they would vote for the eventual GOP nominee regardless.
Chris Kauffman, a Ted Cruz supporter, came to CPAC for the first time wearing a black jacket that reads "conservative voter" with a fake knife stuck in the back with the word "RINO" inscribed on the handle. Kauffman said he felt fed up with Republicans who routinely stabbed conservatives in the back by reneging on their campaign promises.
Kauffman told the Examiner he would support Trump if he won the nomination, but hopes it does not come to that.
"The alternative is much worse," Kauffman said. "Third party is not a good idea, other than Bloomberg because he would steal Democratic votes."