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Live updates: Conservative Political Action Conference

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.

Perry gets a big response

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) led off the second day of CPAC on Friday with a rousing speech that was one of the best-received of the conference so far.

Perry hit on themes similar to those he espoused prior to running for president — specifically, a federal government that is far more limited than it is now and doesn’t do things that aren’t contained in the Constitution.

“It is inherent in human nature, once given power, to never give it back. And let me tell you something, this human tendency is a bipartisan offense,” Perry said. “It is time for Washington to focus on the few things the Constitution establishes as the federal government’s (duties).”

Among the things Perry said the government should do: ”Deliver the mail, do it on time and, heck, do it on Saturdays.”

Perry ran what was, by all accounts, a disastrous 2012 presidential campaign, but he’s retiring as governor this year and has made clear he’s looking at running for president again.

The crowd rose to its feet as Perry’s speech came to a close and applauded as he yelled his final lines.

“You represent the renewed hope that America can be renewed again,” Perry said.

Until tomorrow...

With almost all of today’s major speeches having already taken place, we will be shuttering this live blog for the rest of the day.

We’ll still be monitoring all of the speeches, though, and posting on the bigger ones (NRA head Wayne LaPierre and Donald Trump are still yet to come) on our main Post Politics blog.

We’ll start our live blog again on Friday, so make sure to bookmark us.

Rubio: U.S. shouldn't shrink from foreign policy challenges

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Thursday made the case for a more active American foreign policy, urging the country not to shy away from wielding its influence abroad.

“We do not have the luxury of seeing the world the way we hope it would be,” Rubio said, hitting President Obama for delivering speeches all around the world.

Rubio held up Ronald Reagan as an example of a firm foreign policy, citing Reagan calling the Soviet Union the “Evil Empire.”

“He did not fall victim or in the trap of moral relativism in foreign policy,” Rubio said. “America must be involved in leading the world. Not in dictating to the world; that should never be our role.”

But, Rubio added: “We cannot ignore the reality of who we are.”

Rubio said instability around the world has a direct impact on the American economy and suggested Republicans should focus on foreign crises just as they do on taxes.

Rubio made no mention of his push for comprehensive immigration reform — a package which many conservatives opposed.

Grimes responds to McConnell's gun

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) likely 2014 opponent, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), had the following response to McConnell bringing a gun on-stage at CPAC.

Jindal likens Obama administration to segregationists

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) on Thursday evoked half-century-old images of school segregation, accusing Attorney General Eric Holder of attempting to “stand in the schoolhouse door” to stop minority and low-income students from attending charter schools.

“We’ve got Eric Holder and the Department of Justice trying to stand in the schoolhouse door to prevent minority kids, low-income kids, kids who haven’t had access to a great education, the chance to go to better schools,” Jindal said.

The “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” took place in 1963, when pro-segregation Alabama Gov. George Wallace stood at the door of the University of Alabama to prevent two black students from attending class.

As governor, Jindal has made education reform one of his signature policy agenda items, pushing in particular for vouchers for poor students to attend charter schools.

Christie: GOP needs to be for something

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said in his CPAC address that Republicans need to talk about what they’re for rather than what they’re against — playing up the achievements of GOP governors (including his) and contrasting them with the gridlock in Congress.

“Our ideas are better than their ideas, and that’s what we have to stand up for,” Christie said.

Christie wasn’t invited to CPAC last year after his election-eve embrace of President Obama following Superstorm Sandy in 2012. While the conservative crowd isn’t necessarily his base — Christie is more allied with the GOP establishment and has criticized tea party and libertarian Republicans in Congress on Sandy aid and national security — Christie was greeted with respectful applause as he took the stage and as he left.

Throughout his speech, Christie contrasted GOP governors with what’s happening in Congress, accusing those in Washington of being more interested in publicity than accomplishment.  Christie hasn’t been able to tangle with congressional Republicans, whom Democrats have labeled “obstructionists” for standing resolutely against Democratic legislation.

“The most dangerous 10 feet in Washington D.C. is between anybody who wants to start talking and a camera,” Christie said, borrowing from a popular Washington joke about the oft-interviewed Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Back home, Christie is currently dealing with continued questions about what he knew and when in regards to a political plot to create a traffic jam in Fort Lee, N.J. Christie has firmly denied any knowledge or involvement.

Christie didn’t mention the controversy in his speech, instead pushing for Republicans to be proactive and making a particular case for strong national security that is respected worldwide.

He said Washington’s failure to accomplish things also hurts the country in that regard.

“If we want to once again lead the world, it is not just about the might of our arms, it’s about us making ourselves once again an example of how a free, open society that … treasures liberty over all else can govern itself in an effective and functioning way,” Christie said.

Cruz: Russia lied to Kerry because it doesn't respect Obama

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said Thursday that Russia’s foreign minister brazenly lied to the United States about Russia’s incursion into Ukraine because it doesn’t respect President Obama.

Cruz cited this as proof that foreign tyrants see President Obama as weak. He accused Obama of using a strategy of “appeasement.”

“Bullies and tyrants do not respect us, and it is that weakness that invites — Putin is all but openly laughing at the president,” Cruz said during a news conference at CPAC. “Indeed, we understand the Russian foreign minister (Sergey Lavrov) was on the phone with (Secretary of State) John Kerry saying ‘there are no Russian troops in Ukraine’ as the tanks were rolling in.”

Cruz said he does not want to see any kind of armed confrontation, though, noting that both countries have nuclear stockpiles.

Bolton: Obama is biggest national security threat

Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told the CPAC crowd that President Obama is the biggest threat to American security that exists today.

“The biggest threat to our national security is Barack Obama,” Bolton said, according to a transcript. “The Democrat(ic) Party no longer has a national security plan. … Ignoring threats to our national security is the Obama Doctrine.”

CPAC features conservatives under 40 years old

At this year’s CPAC, the American Conservative Union is giving some GOP rising stars a chance to address the crowd.

The first, former Maryland Senate candidate, current congressional hopeful and former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino, just spoke.

Here’s the full list of these rising conservative stars:

Bongino

Indiana state Sen. Jim Banks

New York state Sen. and congressional candidate Lee Zeldin

Florida state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz

South Dakota state Rep. Jenna Haggar

Minnesota state Rep. Tara Mack

Arizona state Rep. Justin Pierce

Former Miss America and congressional candidate Erika Harold (challenging Rep. Rodney Davis in the Illinois GOP primary)

Miami-Dade School Board Member and congressional candidate Carlos Curbelo

McConnell brings a gun on-stage

…and awards it to his retiring colleague, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

Scrum ensues as Cruz addresses media

Veterans of CPAC know to expect a packed crowd and often plenty of bumping of shoulders in the hallways of the Gaylord Hotel in National Harbor, Md.

That was indeed the case during a media availability for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).

Cruz’s office reserved a room next to the main ballroom for the news conference at 10:15 a.m., only to have CPAC organizers decline to allow reporters access to the hallway leading to the room.

Suit-clad men repeatedly yelled at the growing crowd of reporters trying to get to the room, Chesapeake L, telling them to clear an exit path from the hallway. Reporters yelled back that they were being prevented from getting to Cruz’s availability.

Eventually, Cruz came out and took questions on the rope line next to the hallway, weighing in on Hillary Clinton and Russia/Ukraine as reporters craned to hear what he was saying.

Cruz took three questions and departed.

McConnell: Harry Reid an 'advertisement' for GOP Senate

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went after his Democratic counterpart in stark terms Thursday, attacking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for saying Obamacare horror stories are “all untrue.”

“Can you believe this guy?” McConnell said at CPAC. “Harry Reid has spent two weeks calling people whose lives have been upended by Obamacare liars.

“If ever there was an advertisement for a Republican Senate, this is it.”

McConnell, who faces a primary challenge in the coming months, promised the conservative crowd that he would lead the Senate in a conservative manner if the GOP takes over the chamber.

Reid referred specifically to ads run by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity. He later altered his comment slightly, saying that the “vast, vast majority” of these ads were untrue, rather than all of them.

Reid has been repeatedly attacking the wealthy conservatives behind the group running those ads, the Koch brothers, calling them “un-American” and accusing them of trying to “buy America.”

Tom Coburn: There are 100,000s of me out there

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who is retiring after self-imposed two-term limit this year, said Thursday that there are plenty of conservatives like him out there who choose not to run for office because of the personal costs involved.

“There’s hundreds of thousands of Tom Coburns out there,” Coburn said.

Coburn has long been a conservative icon. While friendly with President Obama, he was known as a no-nonsense conservative before the tea party even came along — earning the moniker (which several politicians share) “Dr. No.”

But Coburn said too many politicians are only out for themselves.

“What (we usually get) is people who want to rise in their political career,” Coburn said.

Christie-Obama bond unravels

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.

Read the full report here.

10 speeches to watch (and 1 event) at CPAC

You can see the entire CPAC agenda here.

Here, we have listed the 10 most important speeches (and one event), for your viewing pleasure:

THURSDAY

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.

FRIDAY

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.

SATURDAY

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.

Paul Ryan urges GOPers to 'give each other the benefit of the doubt'

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.

Christie to stress his conservative bona fides

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.

Toomey plays up role in defeating Adegbile

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.

Chris Christie -- from snub to star

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:

Cruz knocks Dole, McCain, Romney, praises Ron Paul

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.

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