February 24, 2010

Studs and Duds at #CPAC10


The biggest stud of CPAC-2010 was Marco Rubio, the first major speaker of the conference. He delivered an impassioned call for preserving American freedom from the creeping statism that would make us look like the countries people leave rather than the ones to which they flock.  He also got his digs in against the Republican establishment, saying endorsements aren’t enough to avoid a primary challenge, and one-liners aren’t enough to avoid substantive policy discussions.  Rubio and his introducer, Jim DeMint, repeatedly raised the specter of another, well, Arlen Specter.  Most of all, Rubio was a stud because of the energy he brought to the room.  Anybody there who didn’t have an emotional response to Rubio either wasn’t paying attention or had press credentials (-but I repeat myself).

Andrew Breitbart was another major stud at CPAC.  The guy is intellectually savvy and media savvy.  He called out the dinosaur media for failing to recognize the viscerally undeniable evil captured in the ACORN undercover videos.  He captures an audience’s attention like few others.  Breitbart will be a force to watch in conservative activism and punditry for some time to come.

(More Studs & Duds under the fold...)

Newt Gingrich was unexpectedly studly at CPAC.  Newt laid out a definition and a plan for what sorts of “bipartisanship” Republicans should engage in under Democratic rule – smaller bills on issues we can agree on.  Newt’s “2+2=4" analysis also complemented the film he screened at CPAC, “Nine Days That Changed the World”, which recounted Pope John Paul II’s historic 1979 trip to Poland.  The film is excellent, and I would recommend it to anybody who is Conservative, Catholic, Polish, any of the above, or merely a lover of history.

Governor Tim Pawlenty is my fourth and final CPAC stud.  I should disclose that Pawlenty is my early favorite for the 2012 Presidential nomination.  The mild mannered T-Paw managed to use an extremely violent metaphor – Elin Woods’ unorthodox use of a golf club – to reasonably humorous effect without looking like a lunatic.  Pawlenty just seems to “get” the tea parties and what type of Americans they are attracting.  They are, in large part, a group of voters T-Paw has already identified as “Sam’s Club Republicans”, and he likened tea partiers to Ulysses S. Grant – perhaps lacking the polish valued by the chattering class, but capable of getting the job done.  Pawlenty also did another smart thing, which was to hold an open-bar blogger reception outside of the hotel, accessible to some of us who were not official credentialed bloggers.  

Every stud needs some wing-men, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a few:

Michael Williams, Texas Railroad Commissioner and candidate for Senate, displayed his in-depth understanding of energy policy.  

George Will flexed his brain a little more than usual, which is to say those in the room really got a treat.

Mitt Romney - He may not be my early favorite for the Presidential nomination, but there’s no doubt in my mind that he could easily debate circles around Barack Obama.  He can come across as a little dull, but he displayed an understanding of economics beyond trite talking points.


I almost put Mike Pence in the “wing-man” category, but frankly he bored me.  He didn’t say anything offensive, or terribly wrong, just unremarkable.  Those trying to sell this guy as Presidential material should think again.

Ironically, David Keene and the ACU are duds of CPAC.  How could they not see the fundamental difference between two categories of controversial groups? On one hand, GOProud has a policy difference with much of the conservative movement; on the other hand, the John Birch Society and the Oath Keepers are defined by paranoia and conspiracy theories.  The first group should be welcomed, the latter groups shunned.  And how could they not realize that inviting all the nutters into the conference would affect their precious straw poll outcome?

Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin were duds of CPAC through their absence.  Palin has some sort of beef with David Keene, and Huckabee indulged in some sour grapes after he was blown out of the water in the straw poll.  Both contributed to the Ronulan skew in the conference attendance.  Huckabee should look no further than himself to find someone to blame for the conference being overly libertarian.

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