Thursday, March 6, 2014

CPAC Day 1: Thursday Night

I am perched atop one of the two beds provided for me in my hotel room here at the Gaylord National, site of CPAC2014, laptop fired up and ready to report on the day's events.  The Gaylord sits on the Maryland side of the Potomac, near the terminus of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.  It can be fantastically onerous to get to from either the Pentagon or downtown DC, but once you're here, it's not a bad place to be.  Dubbed "National Harbor", there are a few hotels, some restaurants and shops, and a marina all quite closely packed.  Lots of big events happen here now due to the twin benefits of a lot of space and lower overhead than doing it in DC.  But once you're here, you're sorta stuck here.

The only thing like this I've ever attended was the 2012 RNC Convention, which is a truly huge event.  This is smaller, but I'm told it gets bigger as the Presidential election gets closer.  There is a main room where all the big speakers and panels happen, there are breakout rooms where lesser panels happen, there is a floor show, where all manner of conservative interest organizations have set up shop, and there is a "radio row" where you can stroll up and down and look at semi-famous people who have radio shows or who regularly appear on them. I spend the vast majority of my time today in the big room listening to the name brand speakers, slipping out now and again to do some work, to eat a fine Chinese lunch, and to people watch.  But I heard the big names, the ones that are likely to run for President.  I'm candidate shopping this week, and many of the most prominent names will be speaking--though it doesn't appear that Scott Walker or Jeb Bush will, both of whom I'd like to see.

Before giving you my views of the speeches, a few observations about other things.

--This place is awash with College Republicans, who are on the whole, a fine looking bunch.  I found myself at one point wondering why I hadn't been a CR, as those heady Reagan era CPAC's were probably a huge party. Another great opportunity lost.
--I complained mightily about the choices of filler music at RNC 2012.  Not here.  These folks have stepped up the game, and hopefully the Establishment Types (my people) who run RNC2016 will get the message.  RNC is currently conducting a beauty contest about where 2016 will be held, with three cities in Ohio, Vegas, Denver and KC all up for grabs.  I'm hoping for Vegas or Denver.
--This is by the way, not a Republican affair, it is a conservative affair.  There is a difference, as I 'splained to a young lovely at the gym this afternoon who asked me what all the Republicans were doing there.  Lots of Libertarians, too.  I think Rand Paul will kill it here when he speaks (tomorrow, I think), and I predict he'll win the straw poll on Saturday.  I voted for Paul Ryan today.
--The crowd is very upbeat, and very positive.  I expected Chris Christie to get savaged, but he was very well received, and even Mitch McConnell was politely received.
--Lots of speakers keep hitting a theme Jeb Bush peddled last year--we can't just be against them, we have to be for something....and lo and behold, we are!  I am very much enjoying hearing about and learning more about a number of very interesting conservative policy initiatives.  Conservatism has always been about ideas, and it appears that we're back in the idea business.
--Saw Christine O'Donnell here, she of the Delaware race in which she primaried an establishment Republican and beat him with Tea Party support (and $250 from me). Then she got slaughtered int he general.   She's a handsome woman.  Probably why I gave her the money in the first place--which happened very early in her run at a house party in Arlington.   Had I known how badly she'd combust later, I'd have kept my money.  But she is easy on the eyes.  

Ok, now onto the speakers.

Ted Cruz--I remember seeing Cruz in Tampa in 2012 and being put off by him.  He walks around the stage without notes and delivers his speech flawlessly...but I can't get "televangelist" out of my mind.  Everything is just too rehearsed, too polished, too trite.  He's a better speaker than Obama by far, and his messages were very well received by the crowd.  I just don't like him very much. 

Paul Ryan--Love this guy.  Really love him.  But he's just not a ball o' fire on the stump.  He's the brain of the Republican Party and he'll be a great VP or Secretary of the Treasury someday.  Maybe even President.  But not this time--even though I voted for him in the Straw Poll.

Chris Christie--I think he gave the strongest, most polished Presidential Candidate address of the day.  He burnished his conservative credentials (I didn't realize he was so unabashedly pro-life), he hit the President hard, and was uncharacteristically effusive in his praise for others--other Republican Governors. 

Bobby Jindal--Home run speech.  He's got a great speaking voice and a wonderful little Southern drawl thing, neither of which seems particularly well-synched to his SouthWest Asian physical presence--but it all works.  He's as policy savvy as Paul Ryan, and I think he may be a better politician.  Great VP prospect.

Marco Rubio--Solid.  Really got me interested by talking a great deal about foreign policy, something that is noticeably, under-represented here.  He's a likable guy, but he seemed somehow smaller on stage than Jindal did, which was surprising to me.

Donald Trump--I don't think he'll be a candidate, but he is damn entertaining.  It looks to me like he pulls out an index card on the helo and writes a few thoughts down and then wings it.  But it works.  As comedy.  But not as politics. 

In order of finish (speaking, that is): Christie, Jindal, Rubio, Cruz, Ryan--but they were all pretty damn good

I don't believe Scott Walker of Wisconsin is speaking here this year, which is unfortunate.  I'd like to have heard him.  He was mentioned several times today, and the audience responded very positively.  Clearly a favorite of the movement.

That's all for now, friends.  Back tomorrow!

1 comment:

Tom de Plume said...

Was chatting with some of the college Republicans this morning at my modest digs in Alexandria. I guess they were exercising their fiscal responsiblity by availing themselves of the $99 nightly rate. Impressive people.

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