CPAC: A trip down memory lane
March 6th, 2014
07:59 AM ET
6 months ago

CPAC: A trip down memory lane

It’s March. It’s madness. So it must be time for… CPAC.

The annual conference of conservative activists has long been a coveted event for conservative activists, politicians and ladder-climbers.

Potential presidential candidates go to get noticed. Aspiring politicians go to make connections. And young college Republicans go for the party. (Yes, we are generalizing. Not everyone falls into these categories. Calm down.)


It often comes with some controversy. Offensive statements, personal exclusion and political maneuvering – things that come with any large group or gathering – generate headlines.

Here are some of the news- and noteworthy components of CPAC:

Atheists welcome. Or not: This year’s conference hasn’t even started and CPAC, which is run by the American Conservative Union, allowed the American Atheists organization to host a  booth at this year’s conference. But after a story in CNN that quoted its president as saying “the Christian right should be angry that we are going in to enlighten conservatives,” the ACU disinvited the Atheists.

Chris Christie dissed: Last year about this time, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was the next hottest thing in the Republican Party. I mean, he hadn’t closed down any bridges yet.

But he was not invited to speak at CPAC because he wasn’t conservative enough.

“That’s a suicidal death wish,” Rep, Peter King, R-New York, said at the time.

In retrospect, who was it a death wish for? CPAC is going strong and Christie’s numbers are tanking post-Bridgegate.

But this year, Christie was invited and will speak. His scandals have actually increased his support among some conservatives.

Gays Invited. Then not: A pattern seems to be emerging. In a breakthrough moment for gays and conservatives, the Republican lesbian and gay group, GOProud was invited to CPAC in 2011. But after receiving criticism from some apparently influential conservatives, GOPround has not been invited back since.

Jimmy LaSalvia, co-founder of GOProud, told CNN that “there were folks… that wanted us barred from CPAC simply because we're gay. And they took advantage of the leadership change at the organization and were successful in keeping us out this year.”

‘Severely conservative’: During his 2012 presidential run, when Romney was trying to convince conservatives that he was one of them, he made the cringe-worthy remark that plagued the remainder of his presidential campaign as Republicans thought he was trying way to hard and Democrats laughed under their breath.

Romney described himself as "a severely conservative Republican governor" on the ground of social issues.

Sarah Palin: After setting the conservative political world on fire with her emergence as John McCain’s running mate in 2008, Sarah Palin refused an invitation to speak at CPAC in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Finally in 2012, she agreed and was the closing speaker.

She told President Barack Obama that conservatives are “through” with him.

The infamous straw poll: Every year, CPAC participants vote on who they want to be the next President. Usually there are at least a dozen names on the ballot, sometimes more in the years furthest away from a presidential election.

Last year, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul won, following in the footsteps of his father, three-time presidential candidate, Rep. Ron Paul.

Other notable winners include future Presidents – Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, the only two in its nearly 40 year history who went on to the oval office.

With four wins, Mitt Romney has won the most times, followed by Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp.


Filed under: CPAC • Mitt Romney • Sarah Palin
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. king

    aahh dont they have a cpac every month. goodness grief when will these right wingers stop politicking and help the people of the United States. all this is mob hanging of our president, they never have nothing positive to say, their goal is to make the folks that hate the president with a passion, hate him even more. this president have taken this country out of the abyss, and put it back or even stronger than what it was. yet all he gets is attacks criticized, and ridiculed. history will judge this president as one of the top 5 top president in our history and the right foaming grizzle at the mouth are jumping off bridges. when will these repubs come up with a solution and not just say something and when the president tries to come on board they ridicule the said thing they just came up with. yes we know you guys will never work with our president, but dont you guys have a little iddy bitty patriotism left in your souls. i doubt that.

    March 6, 2014 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  2. The Republican Party Is Dead To Me

    Was this trip necessary?

    March 6, 2014 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Watch closely, folks. This is when we hear the "seriously conservative" speeches, from "seriously conservative" people, for a "seriously conserrvative" audience. I'm placing my money on Rand Paul to get the sound bite of the year, for this gem.

    "We don't dilute or give up our message; we need to extend our message to people who haven't been listening to us. To me, that's a message that may have a libertarian twist," he said, emphasizing a focus on "liberty and the Bill of Rights."

    It's always all about the message and people not listening to it. It's almost as if they're saying that if you listened to it just one time, then you will become a conservative for life. They say similar stuff about many highly addictive drugs, too. I'm becoming more and more convinced that by the time conservatives figure out that people have been listening, conservatives will be looking backwards in time to find out why the Republican Party failed. Only after after the house has burnt to the ground will they notice that their own overblown egos and misguided sense of being right about everything is what actually failed them.

    March 6, 2014 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  4. Al-NY,NY

    a total freak show that only cements their reputation as ideologically intolerant, intellectually lacking, and factually challenged. They do however get high marks for moving the massive herd of sheep they control to vote against their own interests and follow these charlatans.

    March 6, 2014 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  5. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    the Republican lesbian and gay group, GOProud was invited to CPAC in 2011. But after receiving criticism from some apparently influential conservatives, GOPround has not been invited back since.
    -------------------------------------------------
    He-he.
    It really is hard to make these Republicns up, isn't it?
    I mean really. Who does this to a group of people, much less to a group of people you can ill-afford to alienate because according to the latest polls the folks you've GOT would vote for the OPPOSITION?

    March 6, 2014 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  6. Lynda/Minnesota

    I see Rand Paul is running around touting Ronald Reagan by suggesting the GOP should be including (I quote) "all kinds of people" into its ranks. Fact is, Ronald Reagan would be considered a Liberal by this new and less improved GOP being taken over the the TeaPary.

    Another fact for Rand Paul to understand. "All kinds of people" generally know who they are and why they are being pandered to ... especially by Rand Paul.

    March 6, 2014 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  7. Gurgyl

    GOP losers are very shameful....

    March 6, 2014 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  8. Lynda/Minnesota

    From the article: "(Yes, we are generalizing. Not everyone falls into these categories. Calm down.)"

    Oh, exactly. Not everyone who falls into a certain "categories" is encouraged either. Calm down: we know who we are.

    March 6, 2014 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  9. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Distant memories, like ever having a Republican being president again. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    March 6, 2014 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  10. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    "And young college Republicans go for the party".

    I think you have it backward. Old, wealthy right wing, family values "Christians" go to cheat on their wives with young call girls...or boys.

    March 6, 2014 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  11. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Where's Our $24 Billion?

    CPAC is no different than a jihadists convention.

    March 6, 2014 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  12. Dead Bear

    The entire Republican party is a trip down memory lane to this imaginary time where their leaders enacted conservative fiscal policies and elevated the morality of our country with their ideological purity... Unfortunately, all of this could not be any further from the truth as history has shown. But, then again, how can the GOP learn from history if all they do is revise it to fit their narrative???

    March 6, 2014 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  13. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    It should be called the CATWALK of GOP CLOWNS!!!!!!

    March 6, 2014 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  14. Tampa Tim

    When does Putin speak at their frat party?

    March 6, 2014 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  15. 2_indy1600

    Newsflash: the next 20 cities to go bankrupt are in blue states, with the exception of one in crazed Florida.

    March 6, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  16. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Lynda Minnesota
    Rand Paul is the ONLY Republican making sense these days...scary ain't it?!
    No. Really.
    Freaking S-C-A-R-Y....for the Republican Party.
    They should change their motto to: No hope. No way.
    I think Republicans have more CPACS than they do actual Republicans.
    At least actual number of Republicans that would actually vote for another Republican.

    March 6, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  17. Tampa Tim

    2 Indy – It is not a news flash when you cite a Washington Post article from 2 years ago.

    March 6, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  18. Rusty Krus

    @2_indy1600
    Newsflash: the next 20 cities to go bankrupt are in blue states, with the exception of one in crazed Florida.

    Please repeat your statement, this time in English.

    March 6, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  19. salty dog

    Newsflash, your funny! Them darn Democrats and their nanny states, hey, what's a nanny state? Miss. Alabama Louisiana Texas. Fools

    March 6, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  20. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ Dominican mama

    Who on Earth ever gave Rand Paul the impression that he is a viable candidate is beyond comprehension. I have never seen a man so inept in reaching out; it is like watching reality T.V. without the reality. He panders. He jumps from one soapbox to another. He says what he knows certain folks want to hear. But in the end, he comes across as nothing more than a used car salesman trying to sell lemons ... rotten lemons at that. I've seen some political ego's in my years, but this man is beyond everything I've ever seen. I don't know that I can come up with a comparison; he is just that bad at pushing himself as the leader of the pack. What is equally humorous is he believes his own rhetoric ... in that he believes he is fooling us with his rhetoric.

    March 6, 2014 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  21. The REAL Truth...

    "It’s March. It’s madness. So it must be time for… CPAC."
    -------------------------–
    Pass the popcorn.. should be loads of fun watching the clowns all trying to out-Conservative each other. Perhaps they should spend some time looking at why they haven't won a major election in recent memory. It's clear that they have failed to get their point across by pounding out the same tired message. Perhaps they should ask why? they have been so successful and why ROOT CANALS have a higher approval rating.

    March 6, 2014 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  22. Wake up People!

    Lynda woman would you please get out of my head!!! I was thinking the same thing but wondering how to phrase it without getting zapped. Actually, Thank you my sister.

    March 6, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  23. Anonymous

    @Lynda,
    I'm curious as to why you say Rand Paul panders. Can you elaborate a bit on why you feel that way? Here you have an individual that says and does things diametrically opposed to the establishment repubs. In his first month in office, he chastised the repubs for not allowing debate on the Patriot Act (something he feels is over intrusive the way many liberals felt when it was originally passed). He feels that our govt is snooping on our privacy too much which should be welcomed by those worried about our civil liberties. He feels that gay marriage is a state's rights issue and if a state wants to legalize it they have every right to do that which falls in line with a liberal's belief in civil liberties. He thinks that voter rights should be restored for convicts and is working with Eric Holder on that. He roundly criticizes the repub party all of the time. Every single issue I have mentioned is opposite of the people that he would be purported to be "pandering" to. Maybe I'm missing something so I'd like to hear from your perspective why you feel that way.

    March 6, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  24. Rudy NYC

    Lynda/Minnesota

    @ Dominican mama

    Who on Earth ever gave Rand Paul the impression that he is a viable candidate is beyond comprehension.
    ---------------------------------
    Most likely, it was the same forces that named him a doctor. Nice description of the man's political style and pandering, too.

    March 6, 2014 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  25. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Lynda Minnesota
    he is just that bad at pushing himself as the leader of the pack. What is equally humorous is he believes his own rhetoric ... in that he believes he is fooling us with his rhetoric.
    -------------------------------------------------
    I'm with you, but here's the thing Lynda: he is actually doing what they should ALL be doing.
    I know he's a joke but that is what makes it so scary, that the inside joke (Rand) within the Republican Party (okay, I take that back. They have many "inside jokes") knows what to say, where to speak, and what side of an issue to take an dstand up for while the rest of the braintrusts are busy excluding everyone they haven't already.
    Fascinating, isn't it, if ony a little bit?

    March 6, 2014 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
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