The conference is themed “Forward: Which Way” in reference to the ongoing divisions within the GOP ranks. The Gathering’s schedule features several public policy experts in addition to the Oval Office hopefuls and reflects Erickson’s interest in foreign and domestic policy issues.
Here’s more of what to know about the Gathering.
Who is Erick Erickson?
The Macon resident left his job as an attorney in 2005 for a career in politics. He started as a blogger for a startup conservative website, RedState.com, and two years later won a seat on the Macon City Council. CNN recruited him as a political contributor in 2009, a gig that catapulted him to radio stardom.
His TV work upped his profile, and in 2010 he joined a Macon radio station on an unpaid, interim basis after the station fired a host for a drug-related arrest. A year later, News 95.5 AM 750 WSB hired Erickson to succeed Herman Cain when the conservative firebrand launched a presidential bid.
Erickson soon became a regular guest host for conservative radio icons, including Rush Limbaugh. Erickson’s show became a syndicated national program in 2021.
What’s the history?
The Gathering has become a fixture on the political calendar. Erickson launched the conference while working as editor-in-chief of RedState.com.
The 2015 RedState Gathering drew national attention when Erickson disinvited Trump from the event. Erickson cited Trump’s controversial comments about then-Fox News television anchor Megyn Kelly having “blood coming out of her eyes” while questioning Trump in a debate.
Credit: Craig Barritt / Getty Images
Credit: Craig Barritt / Getty Images
Even without Trump, the 2015 RedState Gathering featured nine Republican presidential candidates who saw the conference as a place to campaign other than Iowa early in the election cycle. Erickson left Redstate.com in late 2015 and rebranded the conference with the name of a website he founded, Resurgent, in 2016. Then-Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the last Gathering conference in 2019.
What’s the format?
The conference opened Thursday night with a welcome reception. What follows is two days of one-on-one conversations and panel discussions led by Erickson.
In summarizing the format, Erickson said speakers “actually have to sit on stage and have a conversation, no speeches, no filibusters, they’ve got to answer my questions.”
The talk radio host solicited candidate questions from listeners to his show and will work those into his discussions. Erickson’s show airs in Atlanta on News 95.5 AM 750 WSB.
Who will be in attendance?
Six presidential candidates, two U.S. senators, two U.S. congressmen and two sitting governors headline the speaker list. The invitation-only audience includes 1,500 listeners to Erickson’s radio show from 47 states and guests of the event’s co-host, Hardworking Americans, along with more than 100 journalists.
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
How to watch and follow the conference?
The Gathering will be livestreamed on Erickson’s YouTube channel at Youtube.com/@ewerickson. Recordings of the conversations and panel discussions will be available at the same website following the event. The conference will not be simulcast on WSB or Erickson’s other radio partners.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s politics team will live blog during the event at ajc.com as well as on social media.
On social media: Follow updates on Twitter @ajc and @AJCGaPolitics. You can also follow Greg Bluestein and Patricia Murphy
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Why is the federal PAC Hardworking Americans co-hosting the Gathering?
The Kemp-affiliated group answered Erickson’s call for a sponsor to help him offset conference costs. The PAC launched in late 2022 and, according to Hardworking Americans’ Cody Hall, the committee shares many of Erickson’s policy positions.
“It is important for us to get in front of candidates, and it’s important for them to share with Georgians why they should be the nominee,” said Hall, a longtime Kemp adviser.
Erickson invited Kemp to speak at the Gathering well before Hardworking Americans showed interest in co-hosting the conference.
Who are the presidential hopefuls scheduled to speak?
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
A renowned federal prosecutor who served two terms as New Jersey governor, Christie ran for president in 2016. He dropped out of that race following the New Hampshire primary and endorsed Trump, the eventual Republican nominee and general election winner. Christie is now an outspoken critic of Trump, the front-runner in the 2024 race.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Currently the highest-polling of the Gathering’s speakers, DeSantis’ candidacy is grounded in his tough stances on conservative culture issues, such as abortion, guns, “religious liberty” and how race is taught in schools. He is a former U.S. congressman serving his second term as governor.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley
The lone woman in the presidential field, Haley worked in the Trump administration as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She left that role after nearly two years. Prior to joining the federal government, she served two terms as South Carolina’s governor and is credited with the state’s strong economic growth during her tenure.
Former Vice President Mike Pence
Pence served under Trump during his one term as president and is perhaps best known now for rebuffing Trump’s calls not to certify the 2020 election results on Jan. 6, 2021. Prior to joining Trump on the 2016 presidential ticket, Pence was Indiana’s governor. He also spent six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy
The Indian American businessman launched his presidential bid as an “anti-woke” candidate and is a staunch opponent of environmental, social and corporate governance, a practice used by a growing number of American businesses. He co-founded and led a biotech company as well as an asset management firm. He is the youngest hopeful in the field at age 38.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott
The South Carolinian’s experience in elected office spans the local (Charleston County), state (South Carolina General Assembly) and federal (U.S. House and U.S. Senate) levels. He worked in the financial services industry prior to entering politics. He is in his second term in the U.S. Senate and is the chamber’s only Black Republican member.
Who else is participating?
Erickson recruited “conservative thought leaders” on topics ranging from economic and national security to government regulatory policies. Among the guests he’s most looking forward to hearing from are the Heritage Foundation’s new president, Kevin Roberts, as well as Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
The Youngkin conversation will close the Gathering, and Erickson expects the governor to share a controversial stance: that Republicans should renew their long embrace of early and absentee voting heading into the 2024 election. “Republicans need to hear that” after villainizing absentee ballots in 2020, Erickson said.
The panel discussions will focus on economic prosperity and parental rights.
What is the schedule of events?
8:45 a.m.: U.S. Sen. Tim Scott
9:30 a.m.: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp
10 a.m.: Former Vice President Mike Pence
11 a.m.: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Noon: “Ruthless” podcast featuring Josh Holmes, Comfortably Smug, Michael Duncan and John Ashbrook
1 p.m.: The Heritage Foundation’s Kevin Roberts
1:30 p.m.: Club for Growth’s Scott Parkinson
2 p.m.: Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler
2:30 p.m.: Former Homeland Security Director Ken Cuccinelli
3:15 p.m.: The Family Policy Alliance’s Cole Muzio
3:45 p.m.: Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley
8:45 a.m.: Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
9:30 a.m.: Former U.S. Congressman Mark Walker
10:15 a.m.: Consumers’ Research Director Will Hild
11 a.m.: Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy
Noon: Americans for Prosperity panel
1 p.m.: Tax activist Grover Norquist
1:30 p.m.: U.S. Congressman Rich McCormick
2 p.m.: Pollster and political consultant Brent Buchanan
2:30 p.m.: Parental rights panel
3:30 p.m.: U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton
4 p.m.: U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst
4:30 p.m.: Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin