The annual Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, is the year's biggest event for Republicans and the right in general. The speakers' list for the multi-day event reads like a who's who for conservatives, and the more ambitious the GOP candidate, the more he or she desperately wants to win CPAC attendees' approval.
With this in mind, the fact that the conference will not extend an invitation to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) seems noteworthy.
The list of speakers for the March confab currently includes the party's failed 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney, as well as former VP hopeful Sarah Palin and a string of current officials and 2016 hopefuls like Sen. Marco Rubio.
But Christie, who infuriated some Republicans for praising President Barack Obama's performance post-Hurricane Sandy, will not be among them.
In a narrow sense, the CPAC guest seems trivial, but in the larger context, the Christie snub says quite a bit about the contemporary conservative movement. After all, Christie is arguably one of the nation's most popular Republicans; he has a high approval rating in a traditionally "blue" state; and the media establishment seems to adore him (despite his tendency to upbraid reporters for no reason). He may not loyally toe the right-wing line, but Christie vetoed a minimum-wage increase, generally opposes abortion rights, blocked marriage equality, opposes the Affordable Care Act, hates unions, picks partisan in-state fights, inexplicably rejected federal infrastructure investments, and withdrew New Jersey from a regional effort to reduce carbon emissions.
And Christie has national ambitions, which likely would have led him to throw some red meat to the CPAC crowd.
But by 2013 standards, Christie is, quite literally, persona non grata on the right.
The governor has said some nice things about President Obama; he wanted federal aid after a natural disaster struck his state; and he accurately described right-wing activists terrified of Sharia law as "the crazies."
For CPAC, this kind of record simply won't do. The message to Republicans isn't subtle: there are multiple litmus tests and to be a national player, the right expects you to pass nearly all of them.