NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump announced Friday that he would cancel his appearance the following day at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, a decision that drew angry reactions from a Republican base that is skeptical of the real estate mogul's conservative bona fides.
"I think it sends the message that I think he doesn't need us, that he doesn't need the people who are here," Sabrina Barlow, one CPAC attendee, said Friday. "I think CPAC is more conservative for the most part, and more grassroots, so it sends the message that maybe he doesn't feel welcome or he thinks he can get along without us. It divides the party and definitely isn't good for us."
Jenna Suchyta, another attendee, agreed. "It shows a disrespect for us, the conservative base that's here," she said. "We're the conservative political action committee. We care. We're here to act on our political views and he does not seem to care. He just says, 'Well, I don't need you, and I'm not gonna come talk.' That seems really disrespectful to us."
"I think that's a good thing. I don't actually think he's a real conservative," said Zach Bachmann, 21, a student at George Washington University. "I think it's a good thing for the movement and I'm looking forward to hearing the other candidates get a chance to speak today."
One enthusiastic man decked out in Revolutionary gear yelled at Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas), who was standing nearby, "We stopped Trump from coming tomorrow!" Gohmert and the gentleman then bumped fists.
In lieu of Trump's appearance at CPAC, which is held just outside of Washington, D.C., at the Gaylord National Harbor Hotel and convention space, his campaign will make stops in Kansas, which is holding its caucus on Saturday, and Florida, which holds its primary on March 15.
In its announcement Friday, the Trump campaign noted that Trump himself had attended CPAC for "many consecutive years," and said he "looks forward to returning next year, hopefully as president of the United States." The statement also made a reference to "Witchita, Kanasas [sic and sic]," Trump's next stop.
This year's CPAC, which began Wednesday and will conclude Saturday, has sported a healthy number of Trump supporters, many decked out in the candidate's bright red and immediately recognizable "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN" regalia. But conversations with attendees suggest that Trump's reception here would have been mixed. Time and again, CPAC attendees, who pay upward of $300 to attend the conference, voiced skepticism about whether Trump really cares about conservative principles.
Vanessa, a student at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, said she was supporting Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and that she's highly suspicious of Trump.
Cruz is "the most genuine conservative," she said. "He's been very consistent across the board. I do not want Trump to win the nomination."
"I don't believe Trump stands for conservative values," said Andrew, another GCC student.
Indeed, this year's CPAC agenda, which includes keynote address on its main stage as well as smaller breakout sessions, has featured very little programming that could be considered supportive of the GOP front-runner. Right about the time Trump's decision to bow out of CPAC was being reported, Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, was railing against Trump on the conference's main stage, saying that he bases his platform "off of what is in his best interest at that moment."
Eliot Nelson contributed reporting.
Editor's note: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.