Monday, March 18, 2013

A Not-So-Big-Gulp of CPAC

The Conservative Political Action Conference, better known as CPAC, is primarily an opportunity to rally the faithful and to provide some measure on the state of the state of American political conservatism. As a mostly intramural exercise, it has limited significance in terms of news or election outcomes. With the 2016 campaign so far off, this year's convention was like an NBA game in the first period or a chess match with all of the pawns still on the board: a time when the contest can't be won and only lost by a colossal blunder.

But it was the political marquee event of the week, and interesting things were there to be found for those so inclined.

Here are some random thoughts on this year's event:

  • Marco Rubio is an early 2016 front-runner who as a Hispanic provides a potential antidote to the demographic trends that don't bode well for Republicans. But we knew that before CPAC.
  • One winner appears to be Ben Carson. The good doctor is now on the board, with CPAC having solidified his position as one of the pawns. Big deal. At this point, he looks like he might fill the role of far right populist attack dog, maybe 2016's version of Herman Cain.  Carson's quotes from over the weekend remind me of what I used to hear on Cain's radio show, which he hosted in my home town of Atlanta before he ever considered entering the presidential race.
  • Its interesting that two guys that strike me as "far right populist attack dogs" are a wealthy former business owner and a surgeon. And Donald Trump seems to desperately want the job too.
  • The biggest winners might be identified by absence and silence:
    • Non-invitee Chris Christie. He is now perfectly positioned to win his gubernatorial re-election this year as a moderate in a liberal state, not having to defend his conservative credentials at CPAC. His conservative moderation will then differentiate  his candidacy from the field in the Republican primaries, after which he can move to the right for the general election. Wait a minute, that was Mitt's strategy. Oh well. 
    • A couple of previously prominent issues have been pushed to the back burner. The reluctance to showcase past positions is perhaps an indication that change is underway:
      • Gay marriage: There were no calls for a federal marriage amendment, and the gay conservative group GOProud wasn't invited.
      • Immigration: There was some bantering in panels, but silence from the main stage, even from Sen. Marco Rubio.
  • Sample quotes:
    • "All too often we’re associated with being 'anti' everything." - Jeb Bush
    • "Stop preaching to the choir" - Sarah Palin, said while preaching to the choir
    • "Bloggers are where its at" - Michelle Bachmann

(Editor's Note: Senator Rand Paul won this year's straw poll with 25% of the vote, followed by Florida Senator Marco Rubio with 23%. Rick Santorum came in 3rd with 8% and New jersey Governor Chris Christie rounded out the top 4 with 7%...)

I know that this is brief, but I have deadline related to a far more significant event - I need to fill out my March Madness bracket.


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