March 6th, 2014
09:06 AM ET
7 months ago

The latest from CPAC

(CNN) - The Conservative Political Action Conference – better known by its initials, CPAC – is underway at a major convention center at National Harbor, just south of the  nation's capital. The conference is the largest annual gathering of conservative leaders and activists, and when there's no Republican in the White House, it's a must-attend cattle call for GOP presidential hopefuls looking to pass the conference's conservative litmus test.

Christie touts conservative credentials

11:08am ET

McConnell comes armed to CPAC

By: CNN's Alan Silverleib

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell - under fire from both the left and the right this year - showed up at CPAC this morning brandishing a rifle.

With Bon Jovi's 1986 hit "Livin' on a Prayer" booming in the background, the Kentucky Republican strode onto the stage holding the the firearm above his head. He handed the weapon over to Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn at the podium, saying," This is for you, for your distinguished service over the years."

McConnell was giving Coburn the NRA's "Courage Under Fire" lifetime achievement award.

"Liberals hate it, just hate it when Tom Coburn steps onto the Senate floor," McConnell told the crowd. "He's one of the smartest, most decent men I've ever served with." McConnell is facing a primary challenge this year from tea party favorite Matt Bevin.

Top tea party group celebrates five years

Assuming he survives the primary, the five-term senator will then have to endure what is expected to be a tough general election fight against Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

3:59 p.m ET

Donald Trump on Hillary and immigration

By CNN's Ashley Killough

Real estate mogul Donald Trump, always a crowd favorite at conservative gatherings, argued Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016.

"I think in 2016 you'll probably be running against Hillary Clinton. I think it's going to be a tough race, but I think it's going to be a race, that by that time, will be so bad that the Republicans will likewise take that and then you can actually end Obamacare, which is a total catastrophe."

He also took a shot at Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, for pushing immigration reform last year. He was one of the lead authors of a bill that passed in the Senate with bipartisan support and included a pathway to citizenship.

Trump called it a political damaging move for the party, warning that all 11 million undocumented immigrants, if they became citizens, would fall in the Democratic column.

"Every one of those votes goes to the Democrats," he said.

"We either have borders or we don't," he added. "It's true. I mean, you know, you have a border, you have a country. And if you don't have a border, what are we...just nothing. Nothing."

CPAC: 'Las Vegas' for young conservatives

12:20pm ET

Jindal: Obama not that smart

By: CNN's Ashley Killough

Hitting President Obama on his response to the crisis in Ukraine, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal questioned the President’s intelligence.

“We have long thought and said this President is a smart man. It may be time to revisit that assumption,” he said.

Jindal joined a number of conservatives who argued Russia was taking action against Ukraine because it feared no consequences from the United States.

Obama is a “president who doesn’t understand that a weak America leads to instability” and “who doesn’t seem to understand that our allies, our enemies alike need and want a strong America.”

Jindal is considered a potential 2016 presidential candidate.

1:15pm ET

Rubio bashes President over foreign policy

By: CNN's Dan Merica

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida delivered a policy heavy speech at CPAC on Thursday, spending much more time on foreign affairs than the other possible Republican presidential hopefuls who addressed the conservative confab.

In front of a moderately receptive crowd, Rubio backed a robust foreign policy agenda for the U.S. while also stressing that an involved foreign policy doesn't mean more wars and foreign entanglements.

The GOP senator bashed the Obama administration for policy on Cuba, Venezuela and Russia.

"We cannot ignore that the flawed foreign policy of the last few years have brought us to this stage, because we have a president who believed but by the sheer force of his personality, he would be able to shape global events," Rubio said. "We have a president who believed that by going around the world and giving key speeches in key places, he could shape the behavior of other nations and other people."

He also talked tough on the United Nations, noting that the United States is the only nation capable of addressing pressing foreign policy issues.

"The United Nations cannot do this, in fact, they can't to anything," Rubio said.

Rubio favors House approach over immigration bill he helped author

But just as much as Rubio focused on foreign policy, he avoided one topic: immigration. And possibly for good reason.

Rubio was the Republican face of an immigration reform bill that was passed by the Senate in 2013. The bill, however, has failed to get any traction in the House and many conservative activists soured on Rubio because of his support for immigration reform.

Late last year, Rubio back tracked on his immigration position and advocated for the House GOP approach to the issue – a set of smaller bills – as opposed to the bill he helped author.

12:27pm ET

Christie: GOP governors 'getting something done'

By: CNN's Ashley Killough and Paul Steinhauser

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, receiving a warm reception from the audience Thursday, said the GOP needs to change the way it shares its message with voters in order to defeat Democrats in this year’s midterms.

“We’ve got to start talking about what we’re for and not what we’re against,” the Republican governor said. “Our ideas are better than their ideas and that’s what we have to stand up for.”

Christie on dealing with Obamacare concerns: ‘Elect a new President’

The pragmatic second-term governor, never popular with many in the party's conservative base, was not invited to last year's conference. CPAC organizers said Christie was snubbed because some of his positions were not conservative enough.

As chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Christie highlighted the work of several GOP governors in working toward entitlement reform, pointing to the heads of Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Florida-all of whom are up for re-election this year.

Christie, a consistent critic of Washington, argued that states are accomplishing more progress than lawmakers in the nation’s capital.

“Leadership is about getting in and getting something done and making government work. Leadership is not about standing on the sidelines and spit-balling,” he said. “And that’s all we see all across Washington, D.C. but it’s not what we see in the states.”

Unsurprisingly, Christie said nothing of the controversy he faces at home. Both state and federal investigations are underway over allegations that some of his aides closed access lanes to the George Washington Bridge last September to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, for not endorsing Christie's re-election.

Poll: Christie’s post-Sandy leadership numbers dropping

The governor has denied knowing anything about the gridlock until after it occurred and has said he knew nothing about any political mischief by members of his administration.

Al Cardenas, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, the group that organizes CPAC each year, said the national media coverage of the controversies in New Jersey might help Christie with the party's base, which doesn't like to see Republicans attacked by the media, adding that the episode's made conservatives "kindred spirits with Gov. Christie."

11:45am ET

Who's on the much watched straw poll ballot

By: CNN' s Paul Steinhauser

Here's the CPAC GOP presidential nomination straw poll ballot. There are 25 names listed, up from 23 last year. For a second straight year former Florida Jeb Bush has asked not to be on the ballot.

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Thinking ahead to the 2016 Presidential election, who would you vote for as the next Republican nominee for President?

1.         NH Senator Kelly Ayotte
2.         KS Governor Sam Brownback
3.         Neurosurgeon Ben Carson
4.         NJ Governor Chris Christie
5.         TX Senator Ted Cruz
6.         Former IN Governor Mitch Daniels
7.         SC Governor Nikki Haley
8.         Former AR Governor Mike Huckabee
9.         LA Governor Bobby Jindal
10.       OH Governor John Kasich
11.       NM Governor Susana Martinez
12.       Former AK Governor Sarah Palin
13.       KY Senator Rand Paul
14.       IN Governor Mike Pence
15.       TX Governor Rick Perry
16.       OH Senator Rob Portman
17.       Former Sec. of State Condoleeza Rice
18.       FL Senator Marco Rubio
19.       WI Congressman Paul Ryan
20.       Former PA Senator Rick Santorum
21.       SC Senator Tim Scott
22.       SD Senator John Thune
23.       Business Executive Donald Trump
24.       WI Governor Scott Walker
25.       Former FL Congressman Allen West
26.       Other _______________________

11:20am ET

Cruz: ‘Putin is all but openly laughing at the President’

By: CNN’s Ashley Killough

Speaking briefly with reporters, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, blasted President Barack Obama’s response to the Ukraine crisis and argued the President’s foreign policy past cleared the way for Russian President Vladimir Putin to take action against its neighbor.

“Putin would not be acting with this level of aggression if it were not for the consistent weakness and appeasement of our enemies of President Obama,” he said. “Bullies and tyrants do not respect weakness, and it that weakness that invites—Putin is all but openly laughing at the President.”

Inside Politics: Will CPAC be the launch of Cruz 2016?

Cruz also said former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be a continuation of Obama’s economic policies if she were elected to the White House.

“Hillary Clinton would continue the failed Obama economic agenda and there comes a point where you can’t turn this country around. And that is why, here at CPAC and all across the country, there’s an urgency. People across this country understand it’s now or never,” he said, adding it’s time to “get back to the free market principles (and) the constitutional liberties.”

9:50am ET

Ryan: 'Our side is energized'

By: CNN's Ashley Killough

Rep. Paul Ryan, the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, argued the 2014 midterm elections will turn out better for Republicans than the last presidential cycle.

"So, 2012 didn’t go as planned," the House Budget Committee Chairman said. "And last year, it was pretty tough to be optimistic after a loss like that. But now-a year later-I think there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic: I think the Left is exhausted. Our side is energized. And on Election Day, we’re going to win."

The Wisconsin Republican went on to highlight a number of Republican proposals in Congress that advocate for states' rights and lower taxes.

CPAC: A trip down memory lane

"Right now, the tax code is 10 times the size of the Bible and has none of the good news," he joked.

The potential 2016 contender argued the "center of gravity is shifting" in favor of Republicans, thanks to what he described as the failed policies of the Obama administration.

Ryan to Iowa as he keeps 2016 'options open'

"The way I see it, let the other side be the party of personalities. We’ll be the party of ideas," he said. "And I’m optimistic about our chances-because the left? The left isn’t just out of ideas. It’s out of touch."

9:30am ET

Cruz kicks off conference

By: CNN's Paul Steinhauser

A conservative rock star kicked off CPAC. And Sen. Ted Cruz lived up to expectations.

The freshman Republican from Texas called for the abolition of the IRS, urged the adoption of a fair tax, and said that "every single word of Obamacare" needs to be repealed.

The energetic speech was well received by the audience. Cruz, who was elected in 2012 with strong support from tea party activists and other grassroots conservatives, also said the GOP needs to stand for something.

"You want to lose elections, stand for nothing. Look at the last four congressional elections - 06, 08, 10, and 12.  Three of the four we followed that strategy; 06, 08, 12 we put our head down, we stood for nothing and we got walloped. The one election that was a tremendous election was in 2010 when Republicans drew a line in the sand. We said we stand unequivocally against Obamacare, against bankrupting the country and we won an history tidal wave of an election," Cruz said.

"Of course, all of us remember President Dole and President McCain and President Romney. Now look those are good men, they're decent men. But when you don't stand and draw a clear distinction, when you don't stand for principle, Democrats celebrate," added Cruz.

Cruz, who's considering a run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, also called for a lifetime ban on lobbying for former members of Congress, and urged the passing of a constitutional amendment on term limits.

US-POLITICS-CPAC

6:00am ET

What Christie will say

By: CNN's Mark Preston and Paul Steinhauser

It's one of the biggest questions at CPAC this year: What kind of reception will Chris Christie get when be speaks to the conservative crowd on Thursday. The pragmatic New Jersey governor, never popular with many in the party's conservative base, was not invited to last year's conference. CPAC organizers said Christie was snubbed because some of his positions were not conservative enough.

Here's what a source close to Christie says the Garden State governor will speak about when he addresses the audience. "Governor Christie will be true to his reputation as a no-nonsense executive with a record of getting things done in a blue state. Christie will draw on other Republican governors as examples of executives who have followed this brand of leadership – making tough decisions, not letting politics get in the way of doing the job and focusing on action instead of automatically defaulting to partisan rhetoric – in sharp contrast with the dysfunction and inaction of Washington, DC."

"Governor Christie will also speak about what it means to be a conservative Republican and about the importance of focusing on what we are for and not what we are against. The message: we can't just be against something for the sake of being against it. Christie will call on the audience and the party not to waste time with political arguments that do nothing to turn our ideas into results. Conservative ideas are at work in states all across the country and when we lead with ideas, we win." "Also expect Christie to tell the audience we need to stop letting the media define who we are and embracing the stereotypes perpetuated by political adversaries. To do this, Christie will advocate the importance of doing what is uncomfortable, engaging unlikely allies and listening."

As Christie as Christie speaks this year, his administration's facing both state and federal investigations in allegations that some of his aides closed access lanes to the George Washington Bridge last September to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, for not endorsing Christie's re-election. The governor has denied knowing anything about the gridlock until after it occurred and has said he knew nothing about any political mischief by members of his administration.

Al Cardenas, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, the group that organizes CPAC each year, said the national media coverage of the controversies in New Jersey might help Christie with the party's base, which doesn't like to see Republicans attacked by the media, adding that the episode's made conservatives "kindred spirits with Gov. Christie."

While many conservatives may not be Christie fans, they like the mainstream media even less. "I think Christie is going to get a good reception, maybe even better than he would have before the bridge thing. He's a good, engaging, energetic speaker. He's been under attack by mainstream media and Democrats everywhere. The enemy of my enemy is my friend," added Ana Navarro, a GOP strategist and CNN contributor.

5:00am ET

New numbers troubling for Christie and Bush?

By: CNN's Paul Steinhauser

A new national poll released hours before the start of CPAC indicated that three in ten Republicans say they wouldn't vote for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie if he ran for the White House.

According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, 9% of Republicans said they would definitely vote for Christie, with half saying they would consider voting for him, but 30% said they would definitely not cast a ballot for the New Jersey governor.

That 30% figure was the highest percentage for any Republican tested. Next was former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a 2008 GOP presidential candidate, at 24%. The survey also indicated that while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is more popular with Republicans, if he runs for president and wins the GOP nomination, his family name may hurt him in a general election.

Fifty-percent of all registered voters questioned said they "definitely would not" vote for Bush. Bush is the brother of former President George W. Bush, who left the White House in early 2009 with very low approval ratings. Jeb Bush spoke at CPAC last year, but is not addressing the audience this year.


Filed under: 2014 • 2016 • CPAC
soundoff (114 Responses)
  1. pharris830

    They forgot to put Darrel "the torch" Issa on their list of delinquents.

    March 6, 2014 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  2. Solitairedog

    That's a might long list of crazies. I would rather vote for Donald Duck than one of those whackos.

    March 6, 2014 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  3. Polopoint

    What a dork. D O R K. Dork.

    Who or what high-profile politico brings weapons with them to political events? For what purpose?
    Boys with the need for big toys.

    March 6, 2014 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    rdh wrote:

    No member of our government should receive any awards for protecting the 2nd ammendment untill they introduce legislation to repeal the National Firearms Act which is the root of all gun control in the United States of America. "The right of the people to keep and bare arms shall not be infringed." -End of story.
    ------------------------–
    Do you know why the 2nd Amendment was written, and more importantly, why that reflects in the way it is phrased? You are literally taking words out of context when you ignore what comes before it. The 2nd was written to create a legal framework and authority for the creation of an army for national defense. An army that would resemble the army that had just recently defeated the British, one that was made up of armed citizens, not an army of hired killers, conscripts, and mercenaries, which was common for the armies of Europe. It was also common practice to prohibit citizens from owning firearms.

    FYI: The term "well regulated militia" was used by Pres. Washington in a State of the Union address, where he directed the Congress to create the framework for creating a "well regulated militia." The terminology means a well trained, and well behaved army. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th Amendments prescribe additional conditions upon the national militia.

    March 6, 2014 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  5. Pander Bear

    Gonna need and even bigger clown car this year.

    March 6, 2014 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  6. Tracey

    "He wasn't armed he was carrying a rifle". Things to make you go hmmmm.

    March 6, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  7. Ctrygrl

    Don't know what teddy is talking about, the GOP does stand for something – everyone armed to the teeth, women having no right to control their own bodies, a "fair" tax, meaning the 1% pay little of nothing and the 99% pay the incredibly regressive national sales tax – limits of course on yachts and airplanes (see NC). They stand for discrimination (see Kansas), against gay marriage, against health insurance for the poor, and of course against every breath President Obama breathes. The GOP stands for a lot just nothing the rest of the country does.

    March 6, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  8. QS

    "The best way to show your Conservatism used to be to talk about fiscal spending, limited government, family values, etc."

    People really still believe that conservatives were ever even actually for these things to begin with?!

    March 6, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  9. webman6

    What a bunch of nutjobs! With Cruz being right up there as top nutjob. Palin or Bachman would both be a close second.

    March 6, 2014 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. KevininPHX

    I really, really hope Cruz gets the nomination. If so, this may well go down as one of the biggest trounces in US Election history.

    March 6, 2014 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  11. ghostwriter

    Allen West made the list? YES! Please......please.....PLEASE let him run. We'll have mad fun laughing at him.

    March 6, 2014 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  12. Lizzie

    Franks
    Cruz is a citizen. His mother was born in America, so that makes him a citizen.
    NO it doesn't, he was not born here.

    March 6, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  13. Jay

    Carrying a rifle, not armed. And it looks like it's a flintlock rifle. Oooo, scary.

    March 6, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  14. NorCalNative

    Republicans are a scary bunch. Really, I mean really, who wants any of these awful people in charge of our country? Maybe Christie though….Doesn't matter anyway; we're looking at a potential second Clinton Administration come 2016.

    March 6, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
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