Donald Trump and Nikki Haley descend into the arena this week at the high mass of American conservatives, deprived of certain stars of the Republican Party, who are sulking for the first time this conference.
The only two notable candidates already in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination will face off in speeches before an audience of ultra-conservatives at CPAC, which opens Wednesday in suburban Washington - but is shrouded this year with a flavor of discord.
With 615 days to go before the next US presidential election, Nikki Haley hopes to convince her peers during a speech on Friday to make her the first woman to take over the White House.
But the former ambassador of Donald Trump to the UN "faces a delicate balancing act", analysis with AFP Margaret Thompson, of Syracuse University.
"She must succeed in differentiating herself from Donald Trump while managing to seduce her supporters, who are the main activists of the conference and who vote the most in the Republican primaries," says the professor.
The 50-year-old has so far made the billionaire's age -- 77 in June -- her main angle of attack, calling for intellectual aptitude tests for any elected official over 75.
The former real estate magnate, however, is well ahead of Nikki Haley in the polls, and will present himself to the crowd in a posh hotel in Maryland in front of a conquered public.
A sign of the hold that the former tenant of the White House retains over this group, marked very to the right, more than two years after leaving the American federal capital: the prestigious place of the closing speech has once again been reserved for him This year.
But unlike previous editions, Donald Trump's address on Saturday afternoon will be without many party executives -- starting with his main rivals for 2024.
The rising star of the hard right Ron DeSantis, present during the edition organized last year in Orlando and whose candidacy is highly anticipated in the Republican ranks, will not make the trip to Washington.
Like former Vice President Mike Pence, the Governor of Florida will favor travel in the coming days to strategic states in the country, anxious to cultivate his political capital beyond the borders of his state.
Illustration of the gaping divisions that cross a party in full doubt after the disappointment of the midterm elections, the influential Mitch McConnell, who maintains icy relations with Donald Trump, will also be sulky at the conference, his entourage confirmed to AFP.
Some right-wing leaders are also tempted to snub the Conservative meeting because of accusations of sexual assault against its organizer, Matt Schlapp.
On the other hand, this great rout will once again give pride of place to foreign leaders.
After the former French deputy Marion Maréchal-Le Pen in 2018 and the Hungarian Viktor Orban last August, this time it is the former Brazilian president Jaïr Bolsonaro who will be honored on Saturday.
The former far-right leader -- sometimes dubbed the "Trump of the Tropics" -- will take the stage at around 2 p.m. (1900 GMT).
Installed in Florida since the end of December, the Brazilian multiplies the speeches with the ultra-conservative American centers, but said he intended to return to his country soon.
01/03/2023 04:03:35 - Washington (AFP) - © 2023 AFP