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March 06, 2016

CPAC 2016 [Weirddave]

ETA I wrote this yesterday about CPAC's Friday schedule, but the Super Saturday election results started to come in before it was posted.

Due to inclement weather, all of my work commitments yesterday were canceled, so I decided to go to CPAC. After dropping $150 for a one day pass online and driving an hour, I arrived at National Harbor. This was the first time I'd been there, and it's a hell of a complex. They even have the London Eye out by the Potomac.

I entered the conference center and followed the signs to the event. There was an awfully long line of people winding through the lobbies. I followed it. It sure was a long line. I kept going. Finally, I reached the check in desk and got my conference badge and a lanyard to hang it on, along with a swag bag. It was then that I saw the reason for the long line. Secret Service, PGCP, TSA and various private security companies were searching everyone, and then running them through a metal detector and also individually wanding before letting them onto radio row and the main ballroom. It was a slow process.

Dog.jpg


Figuring that the line would keep, I went downstairs to check out the vendor room. Masses of impossibly cheerful young people kept trying to put stickers and buttons on me, it was like walking through a political Macy's perfume counter. The vendors were in a big ballroom downstairs, and all of the expected groups (NRO, OANN, NRA, Heritage, Cato, etc) were there, along with some unexpected ones ( ConservativesOnly, a dating website “because liberals just don't get it” ). I wandered the booths, as you do, stuffing chotchkies into my bag and sampling various wares. NRA had a laser shooting range that I tried out. I hit the correct 5 out of 9 targets in 4.67 seconds, but it took me 6 shots (I missed the first one until I got focused on the sights correctly).

Vendors.jpg

Towards the back was the NRO booth. Charles C.W. Cooke was there, but I didn't speak to him. They had a cardboard standee of Donald Trump for pictures, so I figured I'd get a picture with Teh Donald. Jack Fowler stopped me and handed me a t-shirt with their “Against Trump” magazine cover on it, asking me to hold it up for the picture. I demurred, saying I only wanted a picture of me with the cutout. He then refused to allow me to have my picture taken, unless I held the shirt. NRO has a weird idea of what constitutes “outreach”. I wandered down the row and asked a nice redheaded lady to take my picture with another Trump cutout.

Trump.jpg

Everything I could have gotten from Trump U – for $35K less!

Going back upstairs, I noticed that the line was longer than ever, but over here was a short line for media. Hmmm I thought, and wandered over to the media credentialing table. “Tell me, do you credential bloggers?” After a review of the site, and some pointed questions about the domain “Wait, it's a Polynesian Island in the South Pacific? Why would they cover CPAC?”, they said they would approve me as long as it was OK with Ace. Success! I went back upstairs to discover.....that they'd pulled down all of the security lines. Now there was a great big crowd of people and....metal detectors and individual wanding right at the doors of the ballroom. So much for finagling media credentials. This was such an improvement. /s

Crowd1.jpg

55 minutes later, and after cheating a couple of times by drafting behind SS agents pushing through the crowd, I was almost to the door.

Crowd2.jpg

Still, it was an amicable crowd, and other than the tight quarters, the experience wasn't too bad. It's nice to be able to talk to strangers without political filters in place. This little girl, whose mother proudly told me had been at every CPAC since she was 2 months old, was dressed for the occasion. She was a tiny bit cranky, but overall very well behaved and cuter than a bug's ear waving to the crowd or waving her American flag.

Pubby dress.jpg

Finally, after an hour plus outside, I made it into the ballroom just in time to hear the pro-life panel wrapping up. Now it was time for the under card, and out onto the stage strode that Republican giant, John R. Kasich of Ohio.

Honestly, Kasich gives a good speech. I could certainly see him as preferable to Trump if Cruz or Rubio doesn't make it, but as one Twitter wag put it (they were running a live scroll of Tweets with the CPAC2016 hashtag along the bottom of the Jumbotrons), “The problem with Kasich isn't the issues where he's conservative, it's all the issues where he's not”. Kasich name dropped Reagan so much that bloody images of the Gipper appeared in mirrors all over the hotel. These stories ran from the inspiring (Reagan arriving at Kasich's birth bearing frankincense and myrrh) to the mundane (Kasich advising Ronnie to got those polyps checked out) (full disclosure: Kasich actually claimed neither of those things), but overall the picture painted was of someone intimately involved in the republican wave of 1994. He focused on economics, which he believes is his strength.

Kasich.jpg

The Carol Burnett impersonation was a weird moment, however

Sean Hannity then came out for the Q&A session. The one big thing here was the unsurprising revelation that Kasich is pinning all of his hopes on a brokered convention.

After that, there were more speakers (Michelle Malkin – fiery!, Jim DeMint – DeMinty fresh!) and some interesting panel discussions on things like civil asset forfeiture and Ronald Reagan's legacy. They were running about 30 minutes behind all day, but to their credit they never got further behind than that. Still, as 4:00 neared, a palpable energy filled the air as the room filled up, all the seats taken and people crowed around the sides in the standing room only section. The Secret Service stopped admitting anyone else, citing over capacity, and a couple of hundred people were stuck outside in the hallway for the main event. Finally, the moment we'd all be waiting for.

I'm kidding, of course, but the reaction of the crowd was the same as out onto the stage strolled the man everyone had come to see:

TED CRUZ!

Cruz CPAC 2016.jpg

Ted then launched into a version of his stump speech that should be pretty familiar to anyone who has been following the campaign. This crowd didn't care, they ate it up. They would have applauded Nixon's resignation speech and asked him to encore on the piano. Even the inevitable “TRUMP! TRUMP!” chants were quickly drowned out and after one or two attempts the Trump stalwarts stopped trying. Cruz hit all the bases: 2nd Amendment, pro-life, religious freedom, SCOTUS, etc. His voice in real life is deeper and less “tinny” than it comes across on tape. He then followed up with Sean Hannity running the Q&A segment again. One thing he did say was that he's pushing all of his chips in. He's going to try an beat Trump outright, scoffing at the notion of a brokered convention. This was his Bastogne moment, when he looked in the eyes of those calling for delegate schemes and unicorn dreams and said “Nuts!”

Carson.jpg

After Ted came Dr. Ben Carson, and I thought it unfair that the room emptied a bit, because this was vintage Carson. He announced he was withdrawing from the campaign, and then he spoke passionately about the opportunity of America and the importance of sticking to our principles. It's a relief to see him back in the arena that he does so well in and out of the cutthroat world of presidential politics. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

By this point I was starved, so I went upstairs to the MDGOP hospitality suite. The Talbot County Waterman's Association was serving fresh shucked oysters and there was a pot of homemade Maryland crab soup that was as good as any I've ever tasted. I know my state is fucked up politically, but how can I leave? The eating is sooooooo good here in The Land of Pleasant Living. The suite was crowded, and I was encouraged to see that I was on the older side of the demographic (at 48. Oy.). Just like downstairs, there were a lot of excited, politically motivated, CONSERVATIVE young people to be found. It gives one hope.

I was exhausted. I hadn't felt like paying $250 to attend the Reagan dinner, even though I would have liked to hear Carly Fiorina give the keynote address, and I if I stayed around to watch the free screening of The Young Messiah I think I would have fallen asleep in my chair, so I decided to go home. As I was picking up my coat from the coat check, they guy next to me was checking his, and I overheard him asking jokingly if there was a discount for former candidates, which is how I met Jim Gilmore. Nice guy, good sense of humor, we laughed about the “Gilmentum” hash never quite taking off on Twitter.

All in all, I had a wonderful time. It was great being in a crowd of people who are passionate about conservative principles. I got a chance to meet Kurt Schlicter (in the mens room of all places-no selfies), and I thanked him for helping me get published in Townhall last year. I also spoke to Derek Hunter, who does 12-3 in Baltimore on WBAL (he doubles Rush's share in market too, if you get a chance listen to him online at WBAL.com). It was amusing to introduce myself as “Dave from Towson”, screen names, pen names, radio names, I'll never keep them all straight. Finally, I did get a chance to meet fellow Moron PeeteySDee, which was a treat. We should definitely consider a CPAC MoME next year.

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posted by Open Blogger at 05:34 PM

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