CPAC Analysis Liberals Don't Want You to Read
This year's Conservative Political Action Conference was by all accounts an unusual affair. Why? Because the pundits and talking heads had quite a hard time painting the gathering of more than 11,000 conservative activists as nothing more than a four-day rally of Bible-thumping, right wing nuts. CPAC 2015 demonstrated that freedom-minded Americans are ready to take on the left in 2016. Sure there was Ted Cruz screaming into the microphone giving the audience nothing but red meat. Sure a whopping 40 people walked out on Jeb Bush. At the end of the day, however, the mostly young audience showed that the conservative movement is not monolithic. In fact, today it's looking more pragmatic, insightful and nuanced in its approach to a wide range of issues.
The media would have us believe that all conservatives want to just round up and deport illegal immigrants. Not true. The annual straw poll showed that the vast majority of those surveyed are interested in seeing other options come to pass for America's immigrants. They appear to agree with what Jeb Bush articulated well during his remarks, that millennials shouldn't see immigrants as competitors for their jobs. CPAC goers also reflected this year the increase in importance of national security, given the President's rudderless foreign policy and response to ISIS. Social issues like abortion and gay marriage were far from the top concern of those in attendence, perhaps reflecting the continuing uncertainty about the economy being more important to young voters concerned about finding work.
Scott Walker's second-place finish reflects a realization that people are already looking for more viable alternatives to Cruz and Rand Paul, who both will have trouble putting together a voter coalition in 2016. Bush quieted some of his critics and makes it into the next round, having shown he has a record to run on and is well versed in a range of policy issues. He too brings a more nuanced approach to flashpoint issues than his political opponents and the far right would have people believe.
Christie and Rubio underwhelmed, which may or may not be indicative of things to come. Carly Fiorina impressed, walking the halls and spending quality time with attendees in addition to giving a solid speech. Then there is the wild card candidate - Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who was asked to address the American Conservative Union's annual Ronald Reagan Dinner on Friday night. Pence has yet to publically discuss the possibility of him jumping into the race. He hasn't formed a new PAC, exploratory committee, released a book or any of the things aspiring presidential wannabees seem to do just prior to launching a bid. That's alright. He's been busy doing his day job.
Pence gave a solid speech at the dinner which, despite it being perhaps low energy at times was a good blend of midwestern earnestness, quotable lines and direct pronouncements. In short, it left you with the impression that this was someone who was clearly accomplished, substantive, articulate and - this is important- Presidential. I have long held that people are looking for an adult this time around. Pence has solid domestic policy credentials and having served on the House Foriegn Affairs Committee for a decade, also gives him bona fides where other candidates fall short. Like some of the other candidates in the field, he has a personal story and demeanor that rates high on the relatability scale. He is perhaps the one true conservative who can connect with the broader electorate without looking or sounding outside the mainstream, scaring moderates and independents into thinking about voting for Hillary Clinton. Only time will tell what's next for Pence.
Liberals should take note of this year's CPAC. It was a showcase of a deep bench of talent, a number of strong candidates for the GOP nomination and a more insighful approach to the challenges we face as a nation. Not bad for a bunch of wing nuts.