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Three noteworthy CPAC moments

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

Now that I’ve had time to ponder the jamboree that was the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), three things — ranked in order of “wow!” — stood out.

1. Jeb Bush

It wasn’t exactly a Sister Souljah moment, but it was a profile in courage by Jeb Bush when he talked through a mix of boos and applause to say his piece on immigration reform. Fast forward to 5:30.

The plan includes a path to legal status. …The simple fact is there is no plan to deport 11 million people. We should give them a path to legal status where they work, where they don’t receive government benefits, where they don’t break the law, where they learn English and where they make a contribution to our society. That’s what we need to be focused on.

This position will cost him with the GOP primary base. But if the former Florida governor secures the Republican presidential nomination, his unwavering position on immigration despite opposition within his own party will help him in the general election.

2. Scott Walker

While on MSNBC’s “Hardball” last Thursday, host Chris Matthews showed a clip of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s speech and asked me to react. Fast forward to 7:00.

And up the way in Washington, we have a president, a president  who draws lines in the sand and fails to act. A president who calls ISIS the JV club, who calls Yemen a success, and who calls Iran a country we can do business with. And to add insult to injury whose former secretary of state actually gave a reset button to the Russians. A reset button. We need a leader in America who stands up and realizes that radical Islamic terrorism is the threat to our way of life and to all the freedom loving people around the world.

I don’t agree with anything Walker said, but I will admit to being impressed by his energy and command while hurling buckets of red meat to the party faithful. Unfortunately, the presumed presidential candidate has not shown the same acumen when he performs off-script. Punting on evolution, not distancing himself from the anti-Obama lunacy of Rudy Giuliani, casting doubt on the faith of the president and comparing the fight against the Islamic State to his battles with labor unions, as he did in his CPAC speech, are just four recent examples. These are signs the current golden boy of the Republican Party remains unready for prime time. Luckily for Walker, he has time to learn and recover.

3. Chris Christie

Those heady days when the New Jersey governor was the golden boy of the Republican Party are long gone. Christie’s sit-down with Laura Ingraham was one proof of that. He did well. Walker could take some pointers. But Christie spoke from a defensive crouch for more than 20 minutes with the conservative radio host. And the CPAC crowd provided the second bit of love-lost evidence.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) won the CPAC straw poll, surprising no one. Walker’s second-place finish (21.4 percent) was good news for him. But Christie came in 10th with 2.8 percent. Coming on top of news that Bush is making inroads with the New Jersey governor’s home-state donors, no wonder folks are saying Christie “peaked too soon.”

Yeah, yeah, polls mean nothing this far out. But it’s sure better to be at the front or the middle of the pack than bringing up the rear.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj