The annual Conservative Political Action Conference kicked off Thursday morning as conservatives huddled at the high-profile confab with an eye on the future of the movement.
To mark the event, we take a video-heavy look back through the years at pivotal CPAC moments, in reverse chronological order. Special thanks to The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty and conservative consultant and Ronald Reagan biographer Craig Shirley, for suggestions.
(And for more on the 2013 conference, check out the live blog over on Post Politics for the latest dispatches.)
1) 2012: Mitt Romney called himself a “severely conservative Republican governor” in the midst of the GOP primary. President Obama’s campaign pounced in the general election.
2) 2010/2011: Ron Paul won the straw poll, illustrating the enthusiasm of his base, even as he was viewed as a second-tier presidential candidate.
3) 2007: Conservative commentator Ann Coulter declared Democrat John Edwards a “faggot,” a move which brought her swift condemnation. That same year, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the 2008 presidential nominee, skipped CPAC, and presidential contender Mitt Romney had to deal with a dolphin named “Flip Romney.”
4) 1995: Newt Gingrich’s first CPAC speech after becoming House speaker following the 1994 GOP midterm elections was received very well. The Washington Post’s Lloyd Grove reported at the time:
The CPAC-ers were mellow, kicking back and being wooed by such 1996 presidential hopefuls as Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander, Dole of Kansas and the pundit avenger, Patrick Buchanan of Northern Virginia. (Gramm won the CPAC straw poll with 39.7 percent, compared with Dole’s 12.4 and Buchanan’s 11.6 among 421 attendees who bothered to vote.) Meanwhile, they gloated over a Democratic White House caught up in perpetual disaster and the GOP takeover of Capitol Hill, giving House Speaker Newt Gingrich the most riotous ovation.
5) 1985: Newly-reelected President Ronald Reagan declared, “The tide of history is moving irresistibly in our direction. Why? Because the other side is virtually bankrupt of ideas.”