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CPAC 2012: Republican candidates speak on Day 2

at 04:10 PM ET, 02/10/2012

The Fix team is live-blogged the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Watch live video of CPAC Day 2 speeches
Agenda: Who is speaking and when
Occupy movement stages protest outside CPAC
Romney: ‘Severely conservative’
Huckabee: ‘We are all Catholics now’
Rick Santorum: Don’t abandon principles for ‘hollow victory’
Full coverage of CPAC Day 1

5:30 p.m. | Wrapping up day 2

That’s it for the Fix blog on day 2 of CPAC. Thanks for following us today. Check PostPolitics for updates from the third and final day of the conference.

5 p.m. | Gingrich trains fire on Obama

While his rivals drew contrasts with each other, Newt Gingrich focused his fire almost entirely on President Obama.

As he has on the trail, Gingrich went into detail about his plans for his first few days in office. Much of his remarks came from his standard stump speech; unlike Romney and Santorum, he did not tailor his words much to the audience.

One lighter moment: Gingrich declared that “UPS and Fedex track tens of millions of packages, but the federal government cannot track 11 million illegals — even if they sit still” and suggested we follow the UPS model to keep an eye on them. He added for “my friends in the media -- that was hyperbole, and we don’t need a factcheck.”

About halfway through his speech, Gingrich hit his stride with some good lines: “We aren’t the tax collectors for the welfare state” … “No future president bows to a Saudi King, period” … “If Bernanke has not resigned by the time I’m sworn in, I’ll ask Congress to pass a law ending his term.”

A convert to Catholicism, Gingrich didn’t bring up the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate until his speech was nearly over, but when he did he was animated. “If [Obama] wins re-election he will wage war on the Catholic Church the morning after he’s re-elected,” Gingrich said. “We know who he really is and we should make sure the country knows who he really is.”

At the very end, Gingrich argued for his own electability.

“We don’t have the scale of money that some of our competitors do, but we do have a plan,” he said, along with a “conservative dream team” that includes Todd Palin and Chuck Norris.

If he was a rock star at last year’s CPAC, this year Gingrich was just another speaker. The speech was well-received overall, but he didn’t enjoy the same level of energy and enthusiastic support.

A large contingent of the crowd was also decidedly anti-Gingrich. There was notable booing during his speech, though there was plenty of applause and whistling too.

4:25 p.m. | Callista Gingrich speaks


Callista Gingrich introduces her husband, Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. (Win McNamee - GETTY IMAGES)
Callista Gingrich introduced her husband at CPAC as part of a new campaign effort to increase her visibility.

The intent was clearly to humanize the struggling candidate. But her anecdotes and delivery came off as somewhat stiff.

“Newt is an enthusiastic and committed golfer,” she said, “He gets in and out of more sand traps than anyone I've ever seen.” Given how often Republicans mock President Obama for playing too much golf, it was an odd activity to highlight.

She went on to say that “Newt also loves books” and “has a whole library on his Kindle. … I may be the most grateful person in America for this invention.” She added that they “have great family moments” on the trail and that “Newt is also very supportive” of her singing and French horn performances. “I am personally grateful for his wisdom in not trying to sing as a candidate,” she added, one of her better jokes. “He knows his limitations.”

There was light laughter and applause.

Her closing remarks were more conventional and got a more enthusiastic response: “We believe with all our hearts that America is the last bastion of our freedom. We believe that our current path puts the future of our great nation in jeopardy.”

4:10 p.m. | Michelle Duggar “appalled” by Komen Foundation

Speaking on a panel of conservative women, Michelle Duggar, the star of reality show “19 Kids & Counting,” weighed in on the controversial Susan G. Komen Foundation funding partnership with Planned Parenthood.

3:55 p.m. | Donald Trump weighs in

You didn’t think you would go a week without hearing from Donald Trump, did you?

3:45 p.m. | Allen West surprisingly tame

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), known for flinging red meat by the bucket, gave an unusually tame speech at this year's CPAC.

The freshman conservative got a standing ovation at the end of his speech, but otherwise there were few major applause lines. While he hit reliably conservative themes, his attacks felt muted. He devoted much of his time to defending conservatism, saying that “of course we have compassion, we just don't believe that the safety net should be used as a hammock” and “to think we wouldn’t willingly choose to look out for each other is to miss the intrinsic good in human kind.”

West warned that with continued Democratic control we could ”stumble blindly down the road to a bureaucratic nanny state,” and warned against “mindless lemmings following liberal charlatans seeking to enslave the American will for their own ideological gain,” but there were no memorable one-liners.

Still, when the next speaker declared, “Allen West for president!” the crowd went wild. 

Rachel Weiner

3:20 p.m. | Introducing Callista Gingrich


With his wife Callista by his side, Republican presidential candidate, former House speaker Newt Gingrich speaks after touring the Jergens manufacturing facility in Cleveland during a campaign stop on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012. (Amy Sancetta - Associated Press)

Newt Gingrich’s wife Callista will introduce him before his speech today, Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond confirms.

Callista Gingrich’s introduction at CPAC will be one of relatively few public speaking appearances for the candidate’s wife and will be part of a broader effort to get her more involved in the campaign, Hammond said.

Spouses are often put out there as a kind of character witness for a candidate, but Callista Gingrich is still a very mysterious part of the presidential race to a lot of people.

The Gingriches’ remarks are slotted for 4:10 p.m. Callista’s remarks will be a big entree for her — she wants to take a more active role in the campaign, according to Hammond. Gingrich’s advisers think she is a great asset to the campaign, especially in one-on-one situations.

Aaron Blake

3:09 p.m| Laura Ingraham dings Romney

Radio host Laura Ingraham used her CPAC speech to advocate for respectful discussion of real issues. But a couple of her comments suggested some antipathy toward Mitt Romney.

“Pragmatism over principle is what Mitt Romney hopes will win him the nomination,” Ingraham said. “Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, they believe that true conservatism and electability go hand in hand.” She added, “I'm not taking sides.”

Later she said, “Don't you love when people come to CPAC who have no real connection to conservatives? I'm not referring to Governor Romney.”

1:45 p.m. | Occupy some time between candidate speeches

Mitt Romney just wrapped up at CPAC and Newt Gingrich won’t speak until 4:10 p.m. Kill a few minutes in the mean time by taking our quiz on the week in politics.

1:35 p.m. |Romney: Defeating Obama 'the easy part'

I'm not a moderate. I'm you.

That was Mitt Romney's CPAC message, in a speech that employed the word “conservative” 25 times.

While Romney’s biggest selling point is arguably his electability, he dismissed that case.

“Of course we can defeat Barack Obama! That’s the easy part!” he declared. “Believe me, November 6th will be the easiest day our next President will face.”

Instead, he argued that he should be the nominee because he best represented conservatism in every aspect of his life.

In his family life, “I was raised in a home shaped by and rooted in conservative values … I know conservatism because I have lived conservatism.”

In Massachusetts, Romney said, he was a “severely conservative Republican governor,” and had “the unique experience of defending conservative principles in the most liberal state in our union.”

In business, “if you’re not fiscally conservative, you’re bankrupt.”

The reception was enthusiastic; Romney got multiple standing ovations, the biggest when he declared “I'm not ashamed to say I was successful.”

He introduced some sharp new attack lines about the president: ”Barack Obama is the poster child for the arrogance of government” and “will not be lecturing us on values, as a man whose incompetence and failures caused so much unnecessary pain.”

Romney also took veiled shots at both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Because he’s never been in Washington, he said, “I don't have old scores to settle or decades of cloakroom deals that I have to defend.” And “any politician who tries to convince you that they hated Washington so much that they just couldn’t leave, well, that’s the same politician who will try to sell you a Bridge to Nowhere.”

Romney barely touched on health care, but he did pledge to “eliminate Obamacare.”

Rachel Weiner

12:54 p.m. |Spotlight on Romney

The far right may not be completely sold on Mitt Romney, but that doesn’t mean the activists at CPAC won’t show up in droves to see him. They’ve packed the main ballroom in anticipation of his speech.

12:24 p.m. |Ann Coulter pitches Romney


Author Ann Coulter speaks at CPAC. (Mandel Ngan - AFP/Getty Images)

Conservative polemicist Ann Coulter is endorsing Mitt Romney for the second cycle in a row. At CPAC she made her pitch for a candidate who has struggled with conservative voters.

It's a reversal for her: At CPAC 2011, Coulter said that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had to run “or Romney will win, and we'll lose.”

“Since last year, Obama has gotten worse and Romney has gotten a lot better,” she said. “Obama assumes this audience has been watching the debates and I assume Romney's been practicing, since he's gotten a lot better in the debates since 2008, and I supported him then.”

She said Christie had been her favorite, but he had decided not to run, and Romney was the next best choice — especially compared to Newt Gingrich, who she said would be “repellant to independents.”

While other speakers urged the audience to stick to their principles, Coulter preached pragmatism — an unusual argument coming from someone who made a career out of being outrageous.

“Keep your eye on the prize, right-wingers,” she said. “The only question you should ask yourself is, who will have the most appeal to independents, to swing voters, to my gender.” As much as she loves annoying the media, she said, it wasn't worth “staking everything” on that.

Applause was pretty tepid when Coulter defended Romney; the audience was far more enthusiastic when she attacked Obama.

12:14 p.m. |Photos, tweets from #OccupyCPAC

Some selected tweets from the scene outside the Marriott Wardman Park as occupiers gather to protest CPAC.

11:40 a.m. |Inhofe: Santorum is ‘the real deal’

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) brushed up against an endorsement of Rick Santorum Friday morning.

“I know his heart,” said Inhofe, who served alongside Santorum in the Senate. “I probably know Rick Santorum better than anyone in this audience. He's the real deal.”

Inhofe had endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who dropped out of the race last month. He told Hot Air earlier this week that he was not likely to make a formal endorsement, but that Santorum was the best of the remaining candidates on the major issues.

10:54 a.m. | Santorum: Don’t abandon principles for ‘hollow victory’

“As conservatives and tea party folks we are not just wings of the Republican Party — we are the Republican Party,” Rick Santorum told the CPAC crowd.

“We're told we need to compromise,” he said, “but we will no longer apologize for the principles that made this country great for a hollow victory in November.”

In a more direct shot at Mitt Romney, Santorum highlighted his concern for the “very poor.”

The social conservative candidate was clearly in his element, saying he has “worked in the vineyards” with the activists in the audience: “I know you, you know me and that’s important.” 

Unsurprisingly, he addressed the controversy over mandatory contraception coverage. “It's not about contraception,” he said, calling birth control costs “minor expenses.” “It's about government control of your lives.”

A day after expressing reservations about women in combat, Santorum said: “Thank God men and women step forward every day and put the uniform on.”

Rachel Weiner

10:45 a.m. | Young Santorums carry on the sweater vest tradition


Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. senator Rick Santorum is joined on stage by his family as he delivers remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference. (Chip Somodevilla - Getty Images)
Six of Rick Santorum’s seven children and his wife Karen joined him on stage at CPAC. Aaron Blake notes a couple of the younger Santorums are wearing their dad’s signature wardrobe staple.

10:39 a.m. | Santorum backer takes shot at Romney

Foster Freiss, who is bankrolling a pro-Santorum super PAC, began his introduction of the Pennsylvania senator with a joke.

“A conservative, a moderate and a liberal walk into a bar,” he said. ”The bartender says ‘hi Mitt.’”

There was a moment of awkward silence in the room, followed by a mixture of boos and applause.

Freiss, a wealthy investor went on to call Romney an “executive” — while Santorum is “a servant” and “a blue-collar candidate.”

“You'll never hear him say anything divisive,” Freiss added. “He brings people together. He doesn't talk about the rich and the poor and the middle as three different classes.”

Rachel Weiner

10:26 a.m. | McDonnell says daughter in the Army never got ‘emotional’


Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell steps through a spotlight while delivering remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference. (Chip Somodevilla - Getty Images)
In what could be a subtle response to Rick Santorum, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in his CPAC speech talked about his daughter's service as a platoon leader in Iraq.

When she was overseas and talked to him about enemy attacks, “I did get a little bit emotional, but she didn’t,” McDonnell said. “She got the job done.”

On CNN Thursday night, Santorum expressed reservations about the Pentagon’s plan to allow women to serve in some combat roles.

“I think that could be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved,” he said.

Rachel Weiner

10:20 a.m. | Occupiers are coming to CPAC

The Occupy K Street protesters are planning to “make this a conference the attendees will never forget” with planned “actions” outside the Marriott Wardman park at noon and 5 p.m. on Friday, Katie Rogers reports in The Buzz.

9:49 a.m. | Santorum warming up before his CPAC speech

Rick Santorum is making the rounds at CPAC before his 10:25 a.m. speech. Coming off his sweep of the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses and the Missouri primary on Thursday, the socially conservative Santorum is expected to get a warm reception among conventioneers.

Outside CPAC, Santorum’s statements about the role of women in combat in an interview Thursday are drawing heat.

09:17 a.m. | Huckabee: ‘We are all Catholics now’

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee opened CPAC Day 2 with a sarcastic thank you to President Obama, saying the president had brought together all Republicans by mandating birth control coverage without exemptions for Catholic institutions.

“Thanks to President Obama, we are all Catholics now,” he said. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, he added, should win a “Person of the Year Award.” 

Huckabee argued that, as important as the economy is, social issues still matter more. “Morality matters even more than money does,” he said, “because where there is a nation that has lost its morals, there is a nation which will freely give up its money.”

Rachel Weiner

8:30 a.m. | Welcome to Day 2!

We’re back at the Conservative Political Action Conference, more commonly known as CPAC, when conservative activists descend on Washington, D.C. for three days of red meat speeches from Republican politicians and pundits.

Today former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum will all address the crowd. We’ll give you the all the highlights, the reactions and even the Occupy protest outside.

Meanwhile, here’s our coverage of Day One.

— Rachel Weiner

 
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