CPAC 2012: The live blog

at 05:07 PM ET, 02/09/2012

The Fix team spent Thursday live-blogging the Conservative Political Action Convention. We’ll be back at it Friday morning.

2012 also-rans have their moment at CPAC
Bachmann laughs off gaffes
Perry plays off ‘halftime in America’
Ron Paul skips CPAC, citing ‘travel constraints’

5:32 p.m.| Wrapping up

That’s all for the major speakers Thursday, so we’re closing down the live blog. Be sure to check The Fix again tomorrow, when we’ll be covering speeches from Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker.

Aaron Blake

5:07 p.m.| Cain compares self to Bible’s David


WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 09: Herman Cain, former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, arrives before addressing the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. (Win McNamee - GETTY IMAGES)
In the most anticipated address of the day on Thursday, Herman Cain compared himself to the biblical David, who slew Goliath.

Cain said he dropped out of the presidential race because he values his family, and then offered the strong analogy.

“There were two reasons I dropped out of the race – gutter politics and, No. 2, I chose to put family first,” he said. “And in making that decision, I knew that we together could change Washington, D.C., from the outside and from the bottom up even if your David didn’t make it to the White House.”

The crowd didn’t immediately seem to know which David that Cain was referring to, but later in his comments, it became clearer that his reference was to the Bible.

Cain also took time out of his speech to recognize Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, a.k.a. “Joe the Plumber,” who is waging a quixotic campaign for Congress in a very tough Ohio district.

“Some of us choose to get off the sidelines, and I admire that,” Cain said. “I don’t regret the move that I made, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

Aaron Blake

4:38 p.m.| Overflow crowd waits for Herman Cain

Herman Cain is the biggest draw of the day. By far.

People enter and exit the ballroom here to the extent that they are interested in who’s on-stage.

When Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry spoke, for example, there were big crowds. Same goes for House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

But none of them – repeat, none of them – compares to the crowd Cain is drawing.

The Fix is in the far corner of the room, and right now there are so many people standing up that it’s hard to see the stage. Cain is set to speak in the next half-hour.

Cain is still very much a favorite of this crowd. And this suggests he’s got a voice that the party base will want to hear for year’s to come.

Aaron Blake

3:23 p.m.| The Cain train rolls back into Washington

2:15 p.m.| Perry plays off ‘halftime in America’

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign may not have panned out, but he was in his element at CPAC today, and he had one of the lines of the conference so far.


Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at CPAC 2012. (MANDEL NGAN - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Referring to the controversial Clint Eastwood Chrysler commercial during the Super Bowl over the weekend, Perry said the metaphor might actually be apt — but that it’s time for a change in the lineup.

“If it’s halftime in America, I’m fearful of what’s going to happen in the second half if we let the president start at quarterback,” Perry said.

Perry also signaled that he will be a national voice in the years ahead and that he will continue to be a big advocate for states’ rights and fiscal conservatism.

Of his presidential campaign, he joked that he didn’t lose, he “just ran out of time” — a famous Vince Lombardi line.

— Aaron Blake

1:48 p.m.| Boehner preaches earmark purity

A theme at this year’s conference seems to be Republicans not playing by the old Washington games, and the GOP leaders of the Senate and House both touched on it in their remarks Thursday.

“It’s not easy to pass bills when you don’t have goodies to hand out,” House speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, arguing that while it’s harder to pass legislation without earmarks, it’s also the right thing to do.

Boehner also addressed recent polling that shows Congress’s approval rating reaching a new low.

“No one loves Congress, but I can tell you the House is a different place than it was a few years ago,” Boehner said, referencing the GOP’s control and the earmark ban.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, berated Democrats for buying votes for Obama’s health-care bill with favors like the so-called “Cornhusker Kickback.”

— Aaron Blake

12:38 p.m.| Bachmann laughs off gaffes

Former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann took to the stage at CPAC Thursday with a sense of humor.

The Minnesota congresswoman, recounting her presidential campaign, said running for president represents “one series of humiliations after another.”

The lessons of her campaign, she said, included where John Wayne was born, when Elvis Presley’s birthday was, and to always remember the three government agencies she would like to eliminate.

During her campaign, Bachmann misstated Wayne’s birthplace as the city where serial killer John Wayne Gacy once lived and misremembered Presley’s birthday as the day he had actually died. Her opponent, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, stumbled when trying to remember the third federal agency he would eliminate.

Bachmann spent the rest of her remarks targeting Obama on foreign policy, saying he is the first modern president to be an opponent of Israel.

She also pointed to other Democratic presidents whose foreign policies have had long-lasting effects.

She said Jimmy Carter’s Iran policy “clearly led to the rise of modern-day jihad,” and that Bill Clinton didn’t kill Osama bin Laden “even though he knew where he was.”

— Aaron Blake

12:22 | Convening doesn’t come free

Staff reporter David Fahrenthold is covering CPAC for Politics Friday and Saturday. Follow him on Twitter to get updates in real time here.

11:10 am | Rubio: Obama ‘a terrible president’

In his speech opening the CPAC conference, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) touched on every leg of the so-called three-legged stool: national security, the economy and social conservatism.

It was a jokey speech filled with barbs at Democrats — liberals now call themselves “progressive, which I thought was an insurance company” and “It’s hard to get a teleprompter in this town, there’s a guy who uses a lot of them.” He took multiple shots at Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and former president Jimmy Carter.

Obama, he said, “looks like he’s a really good father, he’s a really good husband, but he is a terrible president.”

But there were serious moments too, and Rubio showed why despite his many denials, he will be heavily courted for the vice-presidential nomination.

— Rachel Weiner

10:15 a.m. | Welcome!

It’s an annual tradition in Washington — the Conservative Political Action Conference, more commonly known as CPAC.

The Fix will start updating this live blog around the noon hour, and make sure to check back regularly over the next three days for more.

Before then, though, check out Rachel’s CPAC preview from this morning.

— Aaron Blake

 
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