NATIONAL HARBOR, MARYLAND, February 27, 2015 — The snow came down, but conservatives came by the thousands for a red hot party. The annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) put on by the American Conservative Union (ACU) brought together elected officials, candidates, media personnel and activists looking to make new business connections and friendships.
Although Thursday traditionally kicks off CPAC, for many the action is in full swing by Wednesday morning. Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform holds his weekly Wednesday meeting where many different individuals present various policy and political comings and goings. The session is off the record, but it leaves conservatives well-informed.
Wednesday evening featured activist training as well as receptions featuring Dr. Benjamin Carson and ACU Foundation Chairwoman Carly Fiorina. Both of them are exploring presidential bids, and Carson has a very loyal following.
Thursday had everybody hustling and bustling in what was one of the more exciting kickoffs in recent years. ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp noted that in recent years, CPAC has been criticized for focusing only on economic issues. This year featured all three legs of the conservative stool well-represented. Fox News foreign policy analysts K.T. McFarland, Walid Phares and Dr. Zuhdi Jasser all offered sober analysis on global events of the day. Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton was as always well sought out.
On the social issues front, Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum was on hand as well as Sharon Angle of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies (NFRA). The NFRA holds its convention in August in Nashville, Tennessee.
Radio Row was buzzing as everybody from Dan “Ox” Ochsner to Joe Messina to Lars Larson had live and prerecorded segments.
As for the activists, they came in all shapes and sizes. Conservative comedians Evan Sayet and Kevin Jackson took time to entertain the many fans they have earned over the years. Jackson is now a nationally syndicated radio host himself.
Karen Siegemund of Los Angeles was representing her group Rage Against the Media (RATM), which works to combat bias in the liberal mainstream media.
This was before getting to the main stage where plenty of top tier speakers lit up the crowd. The highlight of the day was when Fox News host Sean Hannity interviewed Ted Cruz, a CPAC fan favorite. In addition to Cruz, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is being talked about by activists as a potential alternative to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was also making the rounds of presidential politics as cameras clicked away.
As with any CPAC, the revelry went deep into the night. Ali Akbar held his annual Blogbash to honor hundreds of new media citizen journalists. More politicking took place at tavern Bobby McKey’s and surrounding pubs.
While people floated back and forth between the Gaylord Convention Center and nearby areas, the straw poll action was heating up. The libertarians usually overwhelm the straw poll vote by bringing in college students at sharply discounted CPAC prices. While the straw poll is useless in terms of predicting the eventual GOP nominee, it is still a ton of fun.
While this is a conservative gathering, liberal media personalities do show up for sparring sessions. Rick Unger frequently spars with Hannity on the radio while Ron Fournier of National Journal is known for having his points dissected by Dr. Charles Krauthammer on Special Report with Bret Baier.
To be fair to Mr. Fournier, there has yet to be anyone to disagree with Dr. Krauthammer who has not been dissected.
With about half of America’s Republican elected officials considering a presidential run (or so it sometimes appears), the action at CPAC is expected to get even more intense as Friday gets underway.