This weekend the American Conservative Union held their annual Conservative Political Action Conference know as CPAC. I am a CPAC veteran and was lucky enough to attend my 6th conference this year and it was just as exciting as ever!
The start of the conference is Activism Boot Camp. Sessions of the Boot Camp are help through out the conference by Conservative groups like the Leadership Institute and American Majority. This year they had three different tracks for a filled day of sessions on campaign work, activism on campus, and how to use today’s technology to promote the conservative movement best. Although I love the activism sessions and always learn a ton my favorite part is seeing the attendees. There are students in high school who are just forming their political views and considering lives in politics all of the way up to elderly people some of whom had devoted their lives to the conservative movement. After this fun-filled day of learning there is a networking reception for all whom attended the day’s sessions. For most it is an early night to be because the real fun starts in the morning.
Thursdays events started off with none other than the Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker. Governor Walker gave an impressively strong speech which focused on the 2016 election. From others his speech differed a little because his remarks were centered around the all but the very top position on the ticket come November. He spoke about the Governors, Senate, Congress, and local officials that we need to get out and start helping now so that come November we keep all of these majorities. He gave a speech to many applause lines and even a few standing ovations. 2016 was not his year but I think we’ll be seeing a lot from Governor Walker in the future.
Next we had one of the new Senators that came in with the 2014 elections, Senator Joni Ernst from the state of Iowa. Joni as a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Army National Guard had a strong focus on the defense of our nation. She was very critical of the Obama/Clinton security policy and how we cannot withstand another four years of these policy’s with a Clinton Administration.
Ben Sasse the Senator from Nebraska was next to take the stage. As someone who has come out as one of the leaders of the #NeverTrump movement it was no surprise that part of his speech had that focus. He spoke as to what conservativism means to him and his view of how we would actually “Make America Great Again”. Although he didn’t outright say Trump’s name all of us in the room knew exactly who he was referring to.
After the Senator finished speaking I went downstairs to The Hub to get some republican goodies and of course see the FFL girls! I can hands down say that #FFLatCPAC was a yugeeee hit, everyone loved the girls in the elephant skirts and we were the only booth with steady traffic all three days. Down in the hub there is a mix of groups like the NRA, RNC, non-profits like Susan B. Anthony list, young conservative groups like Turning Point USA and Future Female Leaders and even some media like the Washington Times. Most of these booths have cool little knickknacks that they give away like I <3 the constitution bumper stickers, elephant stress balls, or sunglasses with elephants on them!
One of the things I love that CPAC does is their panels because they always make sure that they have a number of opposing views so that all sides of an issue are shown. Thursday afternoon had a number of panels including a first for CPAC one on the issue of the Supreme Court’s ruling of marriage. With a pretty full ballroom it was surveyed to find about 1/3 of the room each supported marriage equality, traditional marriage, and one third wasn’t even fully sure of their feelings and felt both sides had valid arguments. I think this goes to show just how diverse the Republican Party is today and how different we are from the Democrat Party as they would NEVER allow a discussion like this to be had.
The always dreamy Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was up to speak next. His CPAC speech this year was focused on poverty in America which is an issue he has become a major advocate for as seen by the Kemp Presidential forum he held in South Carolina a few months back. Although his interviewer is not a huge fan of his beard I can for certain say that I am 100% pro beard.
The next speech came from Wayne LaPierre from the National Rifle Association and I have to say that other than the Presidential candidates that spoke this weekend I believe that he not only had the most packed ballroom but also has the most applause and standing ovations. Wayne’s speech covered reasons why the American people have the right to bear arms, why the democrats are wrong on issues like gun-free zones, and even went back in the past to show how he has been fighting against people like the Clinton and Chuck Schumer on this issues since the 80’s. It was a strong powerful speech and you could just feel the energy level rise in the room since this is something that majority, if not all, Conservatives and Republicans can agree on.
On the main stage the rest of the afternoon were speeches from some of our wonderful Congressman and Senators that fight for us in the House every day. People like Rep. Mia Love, Rep. Jim Jordan, Senator Chuck Grassley, Rep. Marsha Blackburn and so many other all took the stage to speak on how they are going to uphold our conservative principles and fight for us in this session.
During that time our own Amanda Owens took one of the side stages to speak on a panel about reaching millennials and how to spread the conservative messages to young people that probably don’t know yet that they actually are conservative. It was great seeing the different perspectives on this panel and also a wonderful reminder that there are so many republicans out there we just need to find them.
Thursday night started with a few different happy hours, Sean Hannity pumping the crowd up with some footballs and then there was the GOP Debate. It was interesting watching the debate with a couple thousand people who many have such strong views about their candidate. I would say the majority were Cruz supporters, which was also seen by the straw poll, but still a large amount of Trump and Rubio supporters in the audience. Not many Kasich supporters seemed to be in attendance this weekend although he did get some applause lines from the audience during his debate answers. From walking through the crowd in attendance there were many little heated arguments especially between the Trump and Cruz supporters who I feel at this point have really gotten on each other’s nerves. Per usual the feeling after the debate was that their candidate was the one who won the night.
I can for sure say that Friday morning came too early especially when it started with a 2 hour wait in line to get through security. With the Presidential candidates in attendance and so many people there the security made sense but it definitely was a pain. There was even a @cpacline twitter created due to the craziness. Due to the lines I was not able to get in to see one of my favorites Dana Loesch and I was only able to catch the last 2 minutes or so of Mark Levin’s speech. Due to the CPAC line I decided to stay in the ballroom for the majority of the day.
My morning started with a Panel on the breakdown of the family and how that breakdown is the cause for many of the economic problems that our country is finding itself in. The person on the panel I felt had the best answers to not only this problem but other problems like a rising minimum wage which was discussed was economist Larry Kudlow. In a summary the family is breaking down in part because people aren’t getting jobs, then meeting significant others and then having children in that order anymore. When the baby comes first it throws everything into chaos.
The next speaker was RNC chair Reince Priebus who did an interview with Sean Hannity. Most of the focus was that the RNC will be fully behind the Republican Nominee and that Reince does not believe that we will be having a fight on the convention floor for a nominee. I will say that I noticed, and so did others I was there with, that as the interview went on Reince seemed to get very defensive and almost angry at the thought that people would try to have a brokered convention so to not make Donald Trump the nominee which I found interesting. He spoke about the needs to unify after we have a nominee because a Clinton Presidency would be horrible for this country.
Next we had Jenny Beth Martin one of the founders of Tea Party Patriots who gave almost an opposite speech from Reince. She hit Governor Kasich and Donald Trump on being complete non-conservatives and hit Senator Rubio for having the tea party help elect him and then on some issues turning his back on them in her views. The focus however was on what conservatism actually is and how Donald Trump is no conservative. In my view her speech was the strongest against voting for Trump of the weekend.
Just like the previous day we next had a number of panels. There was one on the voting population of 2016, one on millennials moderated by the always lovely Dana Perino and sitting on the panel were Benny Johnson from IJReview and Katie Pavlich from Townhall which I know many of our readers are familiar with, and finally an amazing panel from the pro-life movement which included none other than Gianna Jensen one of the most outspoken pro-life advocates out there. Yet again these panels had differing views on them and they really are able to create a great discussion so that us in the audience can put together our own opinions on these topics.
Finally we’ve gotten to the Presidential Candidates. Up first was the Governor of Ohio, John Kasich. Even though the Governor clearly had the least amount of support in the room he was met with a pretty full ballroom and many applause lines. He first gave his basic stump speech which highlights his work in the House, his job as Governor of Ohio and his plan of staying in the race by running a campaign which does not attack others. After this for about 10 minutes his was interviewed by Sean Hannity and asked to go in depth on a number of issues. The big news to come out of his interview is that he knows that he can not win the nomination unless it is sent to a convention. Overall I believe that he did well on explaining his message to a crowd that wasn’t very interested in supporting him.
In between Governor Kasich and Senator Cruz, Michelle Malkin gave her speech and boy did she not hold anything back. She tore into most of the remaining candidates, except for Senator Cruz, the Washington establishment, The Obama’s, The Clinton’s, the RNC and more. She spoke to the anger and frustration that so many Americans have towards their elected officials and government in general for saying one thing and doing another especially on the two subjects she cares about most; immigration and education. Although I think some of her wording was a bit on the harsh side I can say that at many times you could have heard a pin drop in that room everyone was so captivated by her speech.
Senator Jim DeMint the founder of the Heritage Foundation and American Conservative Union’s Chair Matt Schlapp both gave short speech’s mainly focusing on the great number of people that were attending this conference this year and how we need to go out and be spreading conservatism every day not just at CPAC.
Then Senator Ted Cruz from Texas came out on stage. Now like I’ve said prior majority of the attendees at CPAC were Cruz supporters so you can only imagine the enthusiasm in the room. They were turning people away because of fire safety. Like Governor Kasich Cruz gave an adapted version of his stump speech but it was interrupted many more times for loud applause and multiple standing ovations. Cruz focused a lot of issues that span across the Republican tent like protecting the right to bear arms, all lives matter, and that we must nominate a conservative Supreme Court justice. By doing that I think that he showed a way that he could be the nominee and more moderate members of the party would consider him. His Q&A with Hannity was very similar and he even went after Trump a little bit.
The final speaker of the night was Dr. Ben Carson who announced that he was officially ending his campaign because he could no longer see any path to the nomination. I think it was a smart thing for him to do as he was not getting much of the votes that were cast and at this point narrowing down the field is necessary. With all of his family there he was able to end his campaign on a high note in a room full of people that respected him.
Friday night of CPAC is always the annual Reagan dinner and the keynote speaker this year was none other than Carly Fiorina. As many of you who know or follow me know I am very partial to Carly and her conservative message. Her speech covered a familiar theme from the weekend that we need to be helping out on not only the Presidential level because we have many important races to keep our majorities and that she will be out there fighting for the American people. She also touched on the fact that she does not believe the Donald is our best choice for President and she did not vote for him in the VA primary although she has not yet endorsed any candidate or said who she did vote for.
Saturday morning due to the Donald dropping out was started by Senator Marco Rubio who like Senator Cruz had to turn people away for hazard reasons and had a large contingent of supporters present. He in his speech continued to spread his New American Century message and highlight why he believes that he is the one to unite all aspects of the party to beat Hillary come the fall. He definitely had the support of the younger conservatives in attendance which filled the room for him.
Glenn Beck was the final speaker of the event and he gave an interesting speech tying together Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory to socialism, I’m serious go watch it if you don’t believe me. As a strong Cruz spox and outspoken #NeverTrump supporter it was a not a surprise that his speech focused on things like upholding the constitution, protecting gun rights, and the sanctity of life. He had a strong close to the end of a wonderful conference.
This CPAC just like every other was memorable, fun, and exciting full of new friends and expanding the conservative message. If you have never attending I suggest looking into coming next year for an amazing weekend that you will never forget!