NATIONAL HARBOR, Md., March 5, 2016 — The Thursday opening of CPAC was relatively subdued. Outside events, from the GOP debate to Mitt Romney’s press conference to Hillary Clinton server news, dominated the day. On Friday, CPAC roared back as the center of the conservative political world.
Presidential politics was the order of the day. Ohio Gov. John Kasich was the first presidential candidate to speak. His speech was typical Kasich. He alternated between showing his compassionate heart and his wonky technocratic mind. His supporters believe he has crossover appeal. His critics find him preachy and, even worse, boring. Overall his speech was warmly received, because few really dislike Kasich; they just like other candidates better. Few in the CPAC crowd want him, but few will be in an open revolt if he is the nominee.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, fresh off a clear debate win the night before, gave a rousing speech. He was interviewed by Sean Hannity on stage before making additional remarks. The crowd loved Cruz, especially when he joked about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton going to prison. He noted that we have never had a presidential inauguration take place at Leavenworth. When Hannity joked about a prison jumpsuit, Cruz said that orange is the new Democratic blue. Cruz is the clear favorite of CPAC 2016.
Former neurosurgeon Ben Carson skipped the Thursday debate, and on Friday during his CPAC speech, he made the official announcement that he is no longer a candidate for the presidency. The crowd erupted into sustained applause. Carson joked that everybody loved him but did not vote for him. After teasing the audience with what qualities he sought in a leader, he ended his speech without endorsing another candidate. He vowed to stay involved in politics and implored young people to stay involved, since this will be their country one day.
Businessman Donald Trump managed to make news without being in the room. He canceled his CPAC appearance to campaign in Kansas after rumors swirled that he would face protests and an embarrassing walkout. Trump played well at CPAC 2015, but this year a significant number of conservative activists seemed tired of his antics. He did have plenty of supporters at CPAC, so there is no way of knowing how deep the anti-Trump sentiment was.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is addressing the crowd on Saturday morning.
For all of the presidential politicking, the rock star of CPAC Friday was conservative columnist Michelle Malkin. She exploded like a neutron bomb, searing every Republican who has betrayed the conservative cause. She reminded the audience that attacking Democrats was not good enough. The wounds destroying the Republican Party are internal.
She blasted former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for his support of Common Core. She lambasted Kasich for his compassionate conservatism, a term she despises. She went after Rubio ferociously for his work with the Gang of Eight on immigration. Malkin scorched the earth, relishing every minute of her time in the spotlight. The crowd roared agreement with almost all of her remarks.
CPAC parties went late into the night. The Young Jewish Conservatives held their annual Friday night CPAC Sabbath. Speakers included Congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Marlin Stuttsman of Indiana. Phil Rosenthal is running for Congress in the New York seat currently held by ultra-liberal Jerry Nadler. Saturday at lunch, the Young Jewish Conservatives will feature radio host Glenn Beck.
James O’Keefe of Project Veritas held an afterparty to celebrate all the young activists using new media methods to fight back against the left. Trevor Loudon showed parts of his new movie. Loudon is a New Zealand conservative who travels America explaining why the American political battle effects the entire world.
In addition to Rubio, the big highlight for Saturday is the closing keynote speech to be delivered by Beck. That will come after the annual presidential straw poll results are released.
This is all pending, depending whether firefighters can douse the flames still coming from the podium 24 hours after Malkin spoke.