There was some uneasiness about CPAC this year due to last year’s disappointing loss at the ballot box and internal disagreements among various ideological views. Despite those initial concerns, the conference was a success if you’re part of the liberty movement, at least. Here’s a look at the winners and losers from CPAC. Also, scroll down to the bottom for a few more pictures and some additional thoughts.
— Rand Paul: When it comes down to it, Sen. Paul has been constantly winning over the last few weeks, but his speech on Thursday was probably the most anticipated and well-received speech of the week. And while the straw poll win over Sen. Marco Rubio just adds to the momentum.
— Liberty Movement and Young Attendees: Really, the liberty movement should go above with Sen. Paul, but given what we heard on yesterday from RNC Chair Reince Preibus and former ACU Chair David Keene, both of whom called for conservatives and Republicans to welcome liberty-minded activists into the fold, requires some separation. Add in Sen. Paul’s straw poll win and it was a successful weekend. Also, the fact that 52% of straw poll voters were between the ages of 18 and 25 — many of which I suspect are in the liberty movement — is a big deal because it gave them a chance to have signficiant influence.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who gave one of the most anticipated speeches at CPAC, has won a plurality of the gathering’s annual presidential straw poll, finishing just ahead of his colleague, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).
According to CPAC, 52% of those who participated in the straw poll were between the age of 18 to 25, which highlights the growth of the youth participation. One would surmise that the liberty movement had a lot to do with this. Also, the poll found that 68% prefer targeted spending cuts to across-the-board cuts and an “overwhelming majority” oppose use of drones for strikes or spying.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is giving the keynote speech at this moment, which will close out CPAC for 2013. You can view the full results of the straw poll, including the survey questions asked of attendees, in the embed below. The takeaway is that there is a shift coming and it’s undeniable.
Last year at CPAC, it seemed as though there was a significant schism between conservatives and Ron Paul supporters/libertarians. However, 2013 was an entirely different story. Not only did several speakers praise Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who spoke at CPAC on Thursday, for his strong stand against President Barack Obama, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus honored the Kentucky Senator and called on the GOP to embrace the “liberty-minded Republicans,” a movement of young libertarians and fiscal conservatives who are gaining influence and prominence in movement.
David Keene, former Chairman of the American Conservative Union and current President of the National Rifle Association, was more pointed about the need for acceptance of Ron and Rand Paul supporters, noting that “[p]olitical movements and political parties have two options: they grow or they die.” Keene also slapped down Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) over his criticism Sen. Paul.
This was probably my favorite panel from the main room at CPAC. The heads of the three of the most well-known think tanks in Washington, DC sat down for a talk today about their organizations, working together from time to time, and some of the issues facing the country.
- John Allison, President and Chief Executive Officer, Cato Institute
- Arthur Brooks, President, American Enterprise Institute
- Dr. Edwin Feulner, President, Heritage Foundation
- Moderator: Lawson Bader, President, Competitive Enterprise Institute
Ben Carson, who recently became a star in the conservative movement after giving the keynote speech at the National Prayer Breakfast last month where he criticized ObamaCare in front of President Barack Obama, spoke this morning at CPAC. Carson, a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins University, gave one of the best speeches I’ve heard this weekend, being both humorous and policy-driven. Dr. Carson also hinted at a future bid for office, which was met with a standing ovation.
You can check out Dr. Carson’s speech below beginning at the 21:00 mark:
Even after the sequester, there is a debate still going on inside the conservative movement over defense spending. With budget deficits expected to exceed $850 billion in the current fiscal year — this after four consecutive years of $1+ trillion deficits — fiscal conservatives are urging to keep the cuts to spending increases from the sequester. Hawkish Republicans, however, want to substitute or restore the defense spending cuts from the sequester with other discretionary cuts.
This issue was the subject of a panel yesterday on the mainstage at CPAC. The panel — “Budgets & Readiness: Can We Cut Defense Spending & Still Protect America?” — featured some bright minds from the think tank world and policy world.
- Mackenzie Eaglen, Resident Follow, Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies, American Enterprise Institute
- Van Hipp, Jr., Chairman, American Defense International
- Lucian Niemeyer, Staffer, U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee
- Christopher Preble, Vice President, Defense & Policy Studies, Cato Institute,
- Moderator: Donald Devine, Vice Chairman, American Conservative Union/Editor, Conservative Battleline
Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), who took on labor unions by reforming collective bargaining laws and in a subsequent recall election, spoke this morning at CPAC 2013 where he rallied the crowd by giving an empassioned defense of conservatism. Gov. Walker, who is thought to be a potential candidate for the GOP nomination in 2016, also went on the offense against President Barack Obama’s economic policies, including ObamaCare.
Based on what I heard this morning, both in his speech and from attendees walking around, Gov. Walker not only delivered one of the best speeches of the weekend, but sounded very Reagan-esque.
You can watch Gov. Walker’s speech below:
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is running for Governor of the Commonwealth, spoke this morning at CPAC, where he raised some eyebrows by taking on the “tough on crime” approach of conservatives. Red Alert Politics has the story:
Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli attacked his “fellow tough-on-crime conservatives” for getting too ”excited to lock up every convict and throw away the key” in a surprising twist during the first speech of the day at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday.“If we really believe that no one is beyond redemption, then we need to stop throwing away that key,” the Virginia Attorney general added.
Cuccinelli, who is running for governor in Virginia, said he wanted to “be a mighty voice for those who have been convicted of a crime but remain in prison because no one is willing to argue their innocence.”
“Conservatives should lead the campaign to changing the culture of corrections in America,” he called out to the crowd of conservatives.
While Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) expressed a similar sentiment yesterday, Cuccinelli’s message is more forceful because he has staked his ground as a social conservative. Various state legislatives have enacted criminal justice reforms promoted by the Right on Crime initiative. These reforms not only lessen criminal penalities and focus on rehabilitation, they also save taxpayers money.
It took me until about 2:30pm yesterday to realize that the American Conservative Union, the group that organizes CPAC, was putting up video of speeches and panels on its YouTube channel. While I can’t go through and transcribe each one, I thought I’d post some of the best speeches from yesterday. And in case you missed it, you can read my write-up on Sen. Rand Paul’s speech here.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA):
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL):
Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX):
If you couldn’t make it to CPAC 2013, you can watch it live via stream provided by PBS NewsHour. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), and NRA Chairman Wayne LaPierre have already spoken this morning. You can watch McConnell and Ryan’s speeches below.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), 2012 GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), are slated to speak early this afternoon.
During his speech this morning, Minority Leader McConnell vowed to repeal ObamaCare and slammed the budget produced by Senate Democrats:
Chairman Ryan spoke about the fiscal issues facing the country. He dropped a line that was tweeted like crazy. Ryan said, “This has been a really big week. We got white smoke from the Vatican, and we got a budget from the Senate. But when you read it, you find the Vatican’s not the only place blowing smoke this week.”