Several of us from TheCollegeConservative have been lucky enough to cover CPAC 2015 onsite at National Harbor, Maryland, and the experience has been exhilarating. As a first-timer here, there has been a lot of activity to take in and process. A review of this year’s speakers is coming, and while I could write pages about the policy differences, crowd receptions, and selling points of each potential 2016 GOP candidate, I want to take the time to make some other important observations.
There are two types of people in attendance at CPAC 2015: those that are open to hearing from a variety of individuals, organizations, and viewpoints, and the hecklers. The hecklers make disgruntled noises upon the introduction of speakers they do not like, and make a point to shout out remarks during speeches. While I of course appreciate and vigorously defend the First Amendment and its right to free speech, for the sake of party unity, I am not impressed with these hecklers. Every day, I worry the 2016 election will be a repeat of both 2012 and 2008: the intra-party insults that flew unchecked destroyed the campaign and our chance to win over independents.
What is fortunate, however, is that these hecklers seem rather few in number. This may seem to be a petty point, but in an age of social media in which individuals can hurl insults over the internet instantly, it needs to be recognized that a majority of GOP supporters are people who know how to show respect and courtesy to others, like-minded or not.
Now we reach the critical part of this piece: a lightning round review of the CPAC speakers thus far.
Carly Fiorina. Though I was not present for Carly Fiorina, I heard from many that she blew the crowd away. Her name was plastered across the headlines just hours after her speech after she called out the likely Democratic nominee, demanding, “Mrs. Clinton, please name an accomplishment.” Her power, confidence, and direct attitude is refreshing.
Sarah Palin. To be straightforward: I love Sarah Palin. Translation: I own Sarah Palin’s Alaska on DVD, am dying to go on an Alaskan cruise, and appreciate her down-to-earth, non-elitist attitude. Sarah naturally gave an excited speech recognizing God’s blessings on this great country.
Newt Gingrich. Newt opened up by showing love for the College Republicans in attendance, which immediately won him applause. Gingrich claimed that “people are hungry for someone to tell the truth,” and I couldn’t agree more. He also made a funny crack that he would “love to open up trade with Cuba after saying goodbye to the Castro brothers.”
Laura Ingraham. Ms. Ingraham came out guns blazing against Governor Jeb Bush. After moving on from her sarcasm (which definitely amused some members of the crowd), she asserted the need for revitalized Ronald Reagan conservatism. From her perspective, we need a presidential candidate who is more than just great ideas, can debate anyone, anywhere, and win, and will be able to explain his or her positions in precise language. On that point, I completely concur.
Marco Rubio. To be completely honest, before seeing him speak, I did not have much of an opinion of Marco Rubio. I liked the guy, but did not have the same passion for him as, say, Sarah Palin. But as I sat listening to him, I realized that I was nodding my head at the end of pretty much every sentence he said. He became emotional describing his debt to America because of the opportunity this country gave his family. To him, as the son of a bartender and hotel maid, he would not have made it to the CPAC stage in any other country but America. He firmly criticized Obama’s abuse of the executive order and described specific steps for how we should go about wiping ISIS off the map.
Rick Perry. I will always appreciate Rick Perry’s glasses from a fashion point of view. His accent is great, and I think he is an incredibly talented policymaker. In his speech, he remember all three of his points, highlighting this administration’s incompetence in Iraq and Syria, asserting Iran should not have nuclear weapons and Israel’s right to exist, and demanding financial accountability for every penny throughout the entire federal government in order to reverse the “generational theft.”
Scott Walker. Governor Walker cited his educational success, even through trying times in Wisconsin. He asked for prayers as he contemplates whether he should run for president, noting that the only reason a sane person would make that choice is because of God’s calling.
Donald Trump. Mr. Trump, in his usual style, made several business-like pitches to the crowd, with my favorite quote being, “To be a winner, you have to think like a winner.” Regarding the Mexican border, he proclaimed “Nobody can build a wall like Trump.”
Rand Paul. Senator Paul displayed fantastic energy and covered just about every policy you can think of. Naturally, he cited our unlimited God-given rights and that the “phone records of law abiding citizens are non of [the government’s] damn business. He called for the term limits of congressmen and vowed as president to balance the budget in just five years.
Jeb Bush. Governor Bush approached the podium to the Bruno Mars song “Uptown Funk,” which I thoroughly appreciated. I must admit, he has the best on-your-toes debate skills. In a lengthy interview with Sean Hannity, he never stumbled in formulating a thorough and direct response to any question. He clearly wants to distinguish himself from his father and brother, and answered some tough questions, particularly on the subject of immigration. While advocating for securing our borders, Bush contended that we need economically-driven immigrants, and that he as president would support a path to citizenship. Hannity noted his financial responsibility in Florida, referencing the $19 billion in taxes and $2 billion in spending that he cut.
The bottom line: Immigration, ISIS, freedom, and our constitutional rights are the big issues at this year’s CPAC. In my opinion, the race will come down to three candidates: Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Jeb Bush.