CPAC Day 3: On Call's Takeaways
National Journal and Hotline were back for the final day of CPAC, including the not-so-surprising straw poll results. Here are the key takeaways and nuggets from Saturday's speeches and events:
--Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour had an unfortunate speaking time slot: early Saturday morning. While the potential 2012 presidential candidate may not have gotten as loud a reception from a possibly sleepy crowd, he did give a pointed criticism of the Obama administration, and invoked the GOP's patron saint (and Barbour's former boss) Ronald Reagan.
--Of course the most foreign-policy-centric of all the day's speeches came from John Bolton. The former UN Ambassador sharply criticized President Obama's reaction to the recent revolt in Egypt, painting the administration's foreign policy as indecisive. ""I don't know what time it is in Cairo ... we will have to see what our government's position is at the moment," said Bolton.
--The annual straw poll results were once again dominated by libertarian-hero Ron Paul, although the Texas congressman remains a longshot to win the GOP nomination should he run. Paul's lopsided and unsurprising win further underscored the CPAC divide between the GOP faithful and Paul's quixotic ideas. Evidence of the deep rift? When Paul was flashed as the winner, his supporters' cheers were nearly matched by the boos in the ballroom.
--The results of course aren't scientific, but the ability of Paul's supporters has forced the ACU each year to defend holding the poll. Outgoing ACU president David Keene told reporters after the results that the big news was the strength Mitt Romney showed -- even though some still question his conservative bona fides, particularly on health care. Keene also noted that while he supported Romney in 2008, he hasn't made a pick yet.
--Freshman Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) closed out the conference with a speech that was crowd-pleasing but largely absent of the rhetorical bomb-throwing that made him a celebrity within the Tea Party movement. Some of the biggest cheers came when West called for continued support for Israel and talked of slashing government programs.