There was a different feeling at CPAC this year. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but as the hours passed, I noticed a trend. I don’t want to say that it felt a little bit like your high school reunion, but actually it did. The reason I say that is because everyone gravitated to their own little groups, just like in high school. You had the Tea Party delegation that rallied around Ted Cruz and were breathlessly awaiting Sarah Palin; the more “inclusive” Conservatives that cheered for Chris Christie, the old guard that held court with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, the Evangelical and “Pro-Life” groups that eagerly awaited Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum and of course the young delegation that anxiously awaited Rand Paul.
I hit the floor at about 9:00AM on Thursday morning and headed down to see if I could catch some of Ted Cruz’s speech. I got derailed along the way with conversations and requests and ended up having to watch it on closed circuit TV. He gave a rousing speech and it was red meat to his followers. There is no doubt; Ted Cruz can captivate an audience.
The audience for Chris Christie was unpredictable, but once he started speaking, he had them in his grasp. The old Christie was back and he received a standing ovation. Still, it was odd to see many attendees not even bothering to go in and listen. I overheard a couple say “I don’t want to hear anything he has to say, he is Democrat- lite so why bother.”
There was the distinct feeling among the Pro-lifers that they weren’t really welcome this year. There was very little mention of the abortion issue, very few speakers discussing that subject at all. Still, the attendees who find that issue #1 filled the auditorium for Huckabee and Santorum.
There was definitely a swell of support for Rand Paul. Young people dominated this conference and I think he was the main reason. He easily won the straw poll and it wasn’t even close. His speech about us needing to have “a big tent” was just the ticket for the young impressionable crowd.
You could feel the pulse of the crowd and the wave was definitely in Paul’s favor. What a difference from last year, when he won; but had a close race with Marco Rubio. Rubio’s popularity took a nose dive this year probably because of his stance on immigration.
Even though the atmosphere was energetic and upbeat, it was still fractured. I could feel it in the interviews that we at PolitiChicks were conducting. Just like in high school, there were rivalries and infighting and “mean” comments. Except, the tension and comments weren’t being hurled against the Democrats, they were against our own party!
The discontent with Boehner and the wimpy members of Congress who let Obama and Reid steam roll over them was very apparent and when Sarah Palin stood up and gave her speech, she said what was on many people’s minds this weekend. Yes, she skewered Obama and did it brilliantly, but she also called out her own and focused a light on their lack of a spine.
The party needs to come together somehow. We need to find a leader that isn’t going to please half of us and forget the other half. Heck, we’ve been living in that universe for the last five years! If we don’t rally behind a candidate and have a real passion for them we will end up just like we did in 2008 and 2012.
You could tell that the crowd at CPAC wanted to find that someone this past weekend. The speeches were good and the energy was there, but it was just missing something.
We need a Ronald Reagan who can unite us a party and also as a country. We need a voice that resonates with conservative Democrats as well. Reagan did it against all odds and I know that there is someone out there who can do it again.