Rick Perry, Chris Christie and, sadly, Donald Trump drew most of the headlines during the first two days of the CPAC, an annual conservative confab held just outside of the nation's capitol. But, the most important moment as it relates to the future of the Republican party didn't come in a speech from a big name Republican thinking about running for president in 2016. It came on a panel about criminal justice reform.
Conservative activists are currently gathered in Maryland for three days of speeches by potential Republican presidential candidates, members of Congress and other bigwigs as part of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Here are some of the best — and at times downright strange — moments from the gathering so far.
Perhaps nobody at the Conservative Political Action Conference this week revved up the crowd as much as Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R). Not Chris Christie, not Bobby Jindal, not Marco Rubio -- not even Ted Cruz.
And Perry did it with a half-full room, speaking at 9 a.m. Friday, when many CPAC attendees were likely tired, hungover or both.
So, this happened.
Why did Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell present this gun to Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Thursday morning? It was a lifetime achievement award from the National Rifle Association for the retiring Oklahoma Republican.
The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is up and running, as is our live blog of the proceedings.
The annual gathering of conservatives is always interesting, bringing out the most conservative elements inside (and outside) the Republican Party, along with leading potential 2016 presidential candidates.
Tuesday's public spat between an atheist advocacy group and Christian conservatives was full of bluster and drama, all over a CPAC conference booth.
This small theater in the culture wars may be of little consequence beyond Washington, but it highlights a dynamic in which non-religious voters are gravitating steadily away from Republicans, even as Democrats have made few major efforts to galvanize their support.
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.
Mitt Romney won the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll on Saturday, taking 38 percent of the vote at the annual gathering of party activists in Washington, D.C.
Romney stole the crown from Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who has won the contest the past two years but did not appear before the CPAC crowd this year.
The Fix team spent Thursday live-blogging the Conservative Political Action Convention. We’ll be back at it Friday morning.
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
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.