Actress Sofia Vergara, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and businessman Nick Loeb at the Bloomberg and Vanity Fair reception after the 2014 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. (Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/VF14/WireImage)
The annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner is one of the hottest tickets in the political world — unless you’re a Republican hoping to win your party’s presidential nomination and the president in office is a Democrat whose record you’re setting out to run against.
Just one of the 14 likely or announced Republican presidential hopefuls is planning to attend the black-tie dinner Saturday in Washington, where President Barack Obama will be the keynote speaker before an audience packed with journalists and celebrities.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich will be the lone member of the group heading to the dinner, which he will attend as a guest of Dow Jones. Businessman and reality show host Donald Trump — who has ginned up media coverage in past cycles by toying with a run and is actually hiring staff this year — will also attend, as a guest of Fox News.
Nine of the 2016 hopefuls will be in Iowa, attending the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition spring dinner Saturday night. It is not much of a surprise to see them prioritizing primary voters over a chance to rub elbows with such blue-state influencers as Vine star Jerome Jarre (who has attracted 8 million followers with such work as his “Pizza is my life” Vine) and actress Jane Fonda, a longtime target of GOP criticism, who will be attending the WHCD this year as a guest of CNN.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaking in Nashua, N.H. (Photo: Darren McCollester/Getty)
“We consider the ‘Nerd Prom’ a no-go zone for conservatives,” said Curt Anderson, a political adviser to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who will be in Iowa on Saturday. “There will be primary voters at the dinner, just not Republican primary voters.”
Other hopefuls, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — who have both been at the dinner in past years — are also not attending this year.
It’s perhaps for the best that Christie is not going again; he came in for some mockery from the podium when he attended the event — which serves as something of a roast for the Beltway class — in 2014. “Washington seems more dysfunctional than ever,” Obama said in his remarks last May. “Gridlock has gotten so bad in this town, you have to wonder: What’d we do to piss off Chris Christie so bad?”
Republican operatives were happy to rip the dinner that has become known as “Nerd Prom” — an ironic title, since the dinner these days is mainly a migration of celebrity power from New York and Los Angeles, while the actual nerds in Washington gawk and ask for pictures.
Dave Carney, who was chief consultant to former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign, said that “the annual self-congratulating narcissism orgy … is only important to the attendees.”
“I doubt a single undecided voter will attend, nor will a single persuadable caucus attendee or primary voter grace the august event with their presence. Galas for the 1 percent to mingle with their supplicants and their footmen are not usually the typical venues Republican candidates will focus on.”
And if some Republican pols do want to take selfies with movie stars and musicians to up their cool quotient with 18- to 25-year-olds, there’s always next year — as long as the primary is over by then.