Conservative activists have descended on National Harbor in suburban Washington this week for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference — a.k.a. CPAC. The conference is both a popular stopover for potential presidential candidates and a place where conservatives debate the Republican Party’s path forward. Check here for live updates.
“A full stomach — and an empty soul.”
That scathing synopsis of the Democrats’ pitch will be the crux of Paul Ryan’s message to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, when the Wisconsin Republican addresses activists, Robert Costa reports.
In the speech, which the Post obtained late Wednesday, Ryan also urges Republican to craft a conservative reform agenda, and talks up the legacy of his mentor, Jack Kemp, the late New York congressman who led the GOP’s anti-poverty efforts during the 1980s and 1990s.
Is “tea party candidate” a toxic label or a badge of honor? It depends on who you ask.
By nearly 2-1, the Post’s Sean Sullivan reports, Republicans say a candidate’s tea party affiliation makes it more likely they will vote for them, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. But by about the same margin, the broader pool of Americans is less likely to vote for that candidate.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), the first speaker at this year’s CPAC, urged Republicans to run campaigns on true conservative principles and suggested some recent GOP presidential candidates weren’t up to the task.
“We all remember President Dole, President McCain and President Romney,” Cruz said. He praised the trio as “good men” but said conservatives lose when they don’t stand by their principles.
Cruz then turned to wooing the youth vote, saying Republicans should focus on conservativism rather than identity politics and moderation.
“Who are the Republicans who have most energized young people? Ronald Reagan and Ron Paul,” Cruz said. “But when you think of them, neither of them were rugged, James Dean types. They were septuagenarians.
“Young people came out by the millions and said, ‘That’s the vision I want to be a part of.”
Cruz said Republicans have suffered in recent elections by not hoisting conservative principles to the forefront — with the 2010 election being the exception.
“We put out head down, we stood for nothing and we got walloped,” Cruz said.
Even though New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was snubbed at last year’s CPAC, he was still the hot topic of conversation, and likely will be this year, too. So what were conservatives saying? The Post’s Julie Percha has the report:
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who led the successful opposition to top Justice Department nominee Debo Adegbile on Wednesday, played up that effort in his speech to CPAC Thursday.
“I could not let that stand without a fight,” Toomey said, detailing Adegbile’s work with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund on behalf of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Toomey said the odds of success “were not very good” — after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) instituted the “nuclear option,” nominees no longer need GOP support to win confirmation — but then, Toomey said, he saw a certain someone walk into the Senate chamber.
“In walked Joe Biden,” Toomey said. “Now that was the best news I’ve had in a while.”
The vice president, you see, would have cast the tie-breaking vote if the vote was deadlocked — a sign of uncertainty that Adegbile would be confirmed.
Eventually, there were seven Democratic senators who voted against Adegbile, rendering Biden’s role in the proceedings moot. Adegbile was defeated.
Embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will speak Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference. According to a preview memo being passed around by his inner circle, he will, in a 15-minute speech, underscore his conservatism and take on the national press, which has dogged him for months, due to a traffic scandal that has ensnared many of his aides.
Here are the three talking points from Christie’s camp, which are being shared with reporters prior to Christie’s address to activists:
* 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.
For Christie, this year’s chairman of the Republican Governors’ Association , CPAC marks an attempt to return to his sweet spot – talking up GOP governors and knocking the press. In spite of the swirling storm of subpoenas and complaints over disaster aid that surround him in Trenton, N.J., he is still looking toward a possible 2016 presidential run, hoping to win over conservatives who have long been skeptical of him and his once chummy relations with President Obama.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a former conservative star who has since seen himself more associated with the party establishment, argued Thursday that his GOP isn’t really all that divided — at least when it comes to policy.
“I don’t see this big divide in our party,” Ryan said in his speech Thursday at CPAC. “What we are seeing is a vibrant debate. … Sure we have our disagreements, and yes they can get a little passionate. I like to think of it as creative tension.”
Ryan said the GOP’s divisions are more about tactics.
He also urged conservatives in the crowd to give more pragmatic lawmakers — Ryan recently spearheaded a bipartisan budget with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) that many conservatives opposed — a chance to get things done.
“I think we should give each other the benefit of the doubt,” Ryan said, drawing lukewarm applause.
You can see the entire CPAC agenda here.
Here, we have listed the 10 most important speeches (and one event), for your viewing pleasure:
9 a.m.: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) — Perhaps the most anticipated speaker of CPAC starts things off.
11 a.m.: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) — After being snubbed last year, a Christie who is struggling with Bridgegate is suddenly persona grata (is that a phrase?).
Noon: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) — One of the biggest questions about this potential 2016 candidate is whether he can stir conservatives’ emotions. CPAC is a good test of that.
12:15 p.m.: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — The Florida senator is resurgent after losing some conservatives with his comprehensive immigration reform push. We’ll see how he’s received and whether he mentions/defends that effort, which many in the crowd surely oppose.
2:45 p.m.: Donald Trump — The Donald shouldn’t be considered a potential presidential candidate, really. But his nascent status as a conservative hero says plenty about the movement he will address Thursday.
9 a.m.: Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) — The outgoing governor has clear designs on avenging his disastrous 2012 presidential bid in 2016.
10:23 a.m.: Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R) — He has also made little secret of his potential presidential run. He struggles with some fiscal conservatives, but he’s a favorite of social conservatives.
2:51 p.m.: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — The Fix’s 2016 GOP front-runner takes the stage to share his unique platform for the GOP.
1 p.m.: Ben Carson — The former Johns Hopkins pediatric neurosurgeon was one of the biggest CPAC stars last year, and alluded to a potential 2016 presidential bid. He’s had some stumbles since then, including comparing gay marriage to pedophilia. As a dark horse, though, he’s worth keeping tabs on.
5:30 p.m.: CPAC Straw Poll — This means less than many would like to think, but it’s still interesting stuff and the trademark ending of the annual conference. Past winners include Ron Paul and Mitt Romney.
5:45 p.m.: Sarah Palin — The former GOP vice presidential candidate has been known to bring props — a Big Gulp, among them. She closes the 2014 conference this year.
The odd-couple bond between Chris Christie and President Obama has unraveled, according to a new report by the Post’s Robert Costa and Rosalind Helderman. And it’s been replaced by a feud between their camps befitting two politicians who no longer stand to benefit from the appearance of a close partnership.