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Posted at 4:00 PM ET, 02/ 3/2011

Why Sarah Palin keeps skipping CPAC

By Rachel Weiner

Getty Images photo by Spencer Platt

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin today turned down an invitation to speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference even after being offered the plum keynote speaking spot, the fourth year in a row she's turned down an offer to speak at the event.

"February is our busiest winter month and with all the prior obligations and outside travel already scheduled for the month I had to forgo some of the opportunities in the Lower 48," said Palin in an email to the Fix Thursday explaining her decision.

Palin's statement, plus the fact that her political action committee is sponsoring a reception at the event seems aimed at making clear that there's no beef between her and the organizers. (Some conservatives, including Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) are skipping out over the inclusion of gay groups.)

But, is there more to the story? First a quick rehash of Palin's past no-go's at CPAC.

*In 2010, a source told Politico that Palin did not attend because she had issues with the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC, and chairman David Keene in particular, because he had asked FedEx for financial support in a legislative fight with UPS. However, a CPAC spokesperson told the Fix that they never heard more about this conflict, and that there was no indication from Palin's team that it was anything more than a scheduling issue.

*In 2009, Palin was planning to attend but pulled out at the last minute, citing "duties of governing" in bowing out. She sent a taped message instead. "We're obviously disappointed," said a CPAC official at the time.

*In 2008, CPAC organizer Lisa De Pasquale said that Palin had to drop out of CPAC, again "at the last minute" after confirming months earlier that she would attend.

This year, CPAC responded to rumors of a rift by again saying it was merely a scheduling issue. "We're disappointed that she couldn't make it year. It's due to a scheduling issue," Keene said. "We look forward to having her next year, and she expressed interest in wanting to be there this year."

But four years of scheduling conflicts seems like a trend. So what's behind Palin's repeated opt-outs?

If there are lingering bad feelings with Keene, that is almost certainly reason enough for her to take a pass.

And, unlike some other potential nominees, Palin doesn't need to raise her profile. She can draw press wherever she goes. And, given the heightened controversy over gay and Muslim attendees, the exposure might seem too risky.

Even in her absence, however, Palin will have a significant influence. She is, as we have written, the prime mover in the presidential race and until she makes clear whether or not she will run in 2012, she will be a presence at any gathering of would-be presidential aspirants -- whether she is actually in attendance or not.

By Rachel Weiner  | February 3, 2011; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2012, Republican Party  
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