It’s That Time Again: Rubio, Paul to Headline CPAC

Probable Republican presidential contenders get ready to court conservatives at the annual event, but will Chris Christie be invited this time?

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - MARCH 14: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) addresses the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) March 14, 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland. A slate of important conserative leaders are slated to speak during the the American Conservative Union's annual conference. 
National Journal
Beth Reinhard
Jan. 16, 2014, 4 a.m.

Marco Ru­bio of Flor­ida and Rand Paul of Ken­tucky will be among the head­liners at this year’s Con­ser­vat­ive Polit­ic­al Ac­tion Con­fer­ence, the con­ser­vat­ive move­ment’s an­nu­al pep rally and pop­ular­ity con­test for the Re­pub­lic­an Party’s likely pres­id­en­tial con­tenders.

Too early to be talk­ing about 2016? Not really. The Iowa caucus is two years away, and if past cycles are any in­dic­a­tion, can­did­ates typ­ic­ally launch their cam­paigns more than six months be­fore then. That means 2014 is the year when would-be can­did­ates start se­cur­ing big donors and lay­ing the ground­work in early-vot­ing states.

“This pres­id­en­tial cycle for Re­pub­lic­ans starts earli­er than ever, in part be­cause it’s the first time in a while we have an open seat without a lead­ing can­did­ate who has run be­fore,” said Al Carde­n­as, chair­man of the Amer­ic­an Con­ser­vat­ive Uni­on, which spon­sors CPAC. “We’re al­most off and run­ning, and CPAC is the be­gin­ning of that jour­ney.”

In­deed, in con­trast to Hil­lary Clin­ton’s dom­in­ance on the Demo­crat­ic side, the Re­pub­lic­an field is wide open, fea­tur­ing a slew of fast-rising new­comers and, pos­sibly, a couple of also-rans from 2012. Paul won CPAC’s straw poll in 2013, while Ru­bio came in a close second.

Ru­bio and Paul are the only speak­ers CPAC is an­noun­cing Thursday, but some fa­mil­i­ar faces are ex­pec­ted, in­clud­ing Ted Cruz, Paul Ry­an, Scott Walk­er, Bobby Jin­dal, and Rick San­tor­um.

There are two wild cards: Chris Christie, no­tori­ously snubbed by CPAC last year in part for palling around with Pres­id­ent Obama after su­per­storm Sandy, and Jeb Bush, the former Flor­ida gov­ernor who ap­pears more likely to stay on the side­lines. The in­terest in the New Jer­sey gov­ernor will be par­tic­u­larly in­tense be­cause of the scan­dal over his of­fice’s role in cre­at­ing a massive traffic jam on the George Wash­ing­ton Bridge, al­legedly as part of a polit­ic­al ven­detta.

Last year’s CPAC gath­er­ing peaked at around 10,000 act­iv­ists, and Carde­n­as said re­gis­tra­tion is run­ning ahead for the March 6-8 con­ven­tion at the Gaylord Na­tion­al Re­sort & Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in Mary­land.

CPAC typ­ic­ally fea­tures a couple of sig­na­ture mo­ments that go on to frame the polit­ic­al nar­rat­ive. In 2012, Mitt Rom­ney de­clared him­self “severely con­ser­vat­ive,” a phrase that neatly cap­tured the former Mas­sachu­setts gov­ernor’s ef­fort to re­define him­self for a primary elect­or­ate that leaned heav­ily to the right. Paul dubbed the GOP “stale and moss-covered” in 2013, lay­ing the ground­work for a year rocked by fric­tion between the party’s old guard and the tea-party move­ment.

The con­fer­ence has also re­flec­ted the Re­pub­lic­an Party’s struggle to keep up with a grow­ing ac­cept­ance of gay mar­riage. After a con­flict in which some CPAC par­ti­cipants threatened to boy­cott the con­fer­ence over the par­ti­cip­a­tion of a gay-rights group, GO­Proud, Carde­n­as ex­cluded the group for the past two years. That promp­ted oth­ers to stay away. The group’s cofounder, Jimmy LaS­alvia, re­cently left the Re­pub­lic­an Party to be­come an in­de­pend­ent.

“I spent my ca­reer try­ing to change the at­mo­sphere in the con­ser­vat­ive move­ment be­cause I as­sumed the an­ti­gay bigotry would melt away,” LaS­alvia said. “As far as I’m con­cerned, it’s time to pull the plug on the Re­pub­lic­an Party.”

Now, the group’s new lead­er­ship is ne­go­ti­at­ing with CPAC about re­turn­ing this year. “We are look­ing for­ward to hav­ing a mu­tu­ally be­ne­fi­cial and re­spect­ful re­la­tion­ship with them,” said GO­Proud Co­dir­ect­or Ross Hem­minger.

The con­fer­ence roughly co­in­cides with the one-year an­niversary of the Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee’s sweep­ing re­view of the 2012 elec­tion. In a meet­ing with re­port­ers Tues­day, RNC of­fi­cials said they are mak­ing pro­gress to­ward the goals set in the much-bal­ly­hooed blue­print to take back the White House, in­clud­ing beef­ing up its data col­lec­tion and di­git­al prowess and reach­ing out to wo­men, minor­it­ies, and young voters. Some three out of four of the na­tion­al party’s staff now work out­side Wash­ing­ton in an ef­fort to match the massive field op­er­a­tion es­tab­lished by Pres­id­ent Obama’s cam­paign.

But long be­fore the RNC ac­tiv­ates its ground game in 2016, am­bi­tious Re­pub­lic­ans like Ru­bio and Paul will be au­di­tion­ing for friendly audi­ences in Wash­ing­ton and around the coun­try.

What We're Following See More »
WEST WING REDUX
Allison Janney Takes to the Real White House Podium
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Carolyn Kaster/AP

STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
3 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
4 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
7 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
×