Government & Politics

The CPAC Sizzler: Red Meat for Primaries

GOP candidates kicked off the 2016 race.

Robin Smith · Mar. 2, 2015

The Republican presidential primary virtually began this past weekend right outside the Washington Beltway. The event is also known as the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

The gathering of thousands of activists was treated to candidates and experts engaged in extensive and serious policy discussions. There were no doubts where participants of CPAC stand regarding America’s exceptionalism, Liberty and the Constitution.

Some highlights:

In the face of growing threats in the world (and no, we don’t mean the climate), potential presidential contenders emphasized national security and foreign policy. The Islamic State was clearly identified as Islamic and named as a necessary target for destruction to end its evil and medieval barbarism.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio jumped from the obvious problem of ISIL and the cauldron of toil and trouble of the Middle East to pledging to reverse Obama’s cancellation of the missile defense installations in Europe to appease and pacify the angry Bear of Russia. Rubio pegged the KGB-raised Vladimir Putin as a danger in need of countering, arguing for an expansion of missile defense into Eastern Europe beyond Poland and the Czech Republic.

Rubio assessed Obama’s “JV” foreign policy, characterizing the commander in chief’s frame of reference thusly: “America, and American engagement, is more often the source of our problems than the source of our solutions.” Rubio slammed this view as wrong and dangerous.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal hammered the administration’s “jobs for Jihadistan” approach: “We don’t need a war on international poverty, we need a war on the evil radical Islamic terrorism.” Furthermore, Jindal asserted, Obama’s administration has incompetently failed at formulating and executing a realistic plan aimed at “degrading and destroying ISIS.” Therefore, Jindal concluded, Obama “has shown himself incapable of being our commander in chief.”

On immigration policy, most all of the CPAC featured speakers were in unison in supporting a secured southern border and enforcement of existing laws to encourage and reward legal immigration.

Rubio – of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” fame – said he’s learned his lesson: “[Y]ou can’t even have a conversation about [illegal immigrants already in the country] until people believe and know – not just believe, but it’s proven to them – that future illegal immigration is brought under control.” He’s absolutely right, despite what many conservatives view as his blemished track record.

On the other hand – and this is no surprise – Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and wannabe-GOP-nominee with big donors on his side, was honest enough not to pander in his proclamation, “Yes, I support a path to legalization” for illegal immigrants currently in our nation. (He also began his tack Left on same-sex marriage, perhaps signaling he won’t even bother trying to convince voters a la Mitt Romney that he really is “severely conservative.”)

The CPAC speaker with the most election wins (three) over the last four years, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, clearly articulated the most basic spirit of America: “Up there in Washington, we have a president who measures success by how many people are dependent on the government. There’s a reason we celebrate the Fourth of July and not April 15, because in America we celebrate our independence from the government and not our dependence on it.”

And former Texas Governor Rick Perry offered up downright Reaganesque optimism: “I’ve never been more certain than I am today that America’s best days remain in front of us. The weakness and incompetence of our government shouldn’t be confused with the strength, the ingenuity and the idealism of the American people.” Perry listed the nation’s painful sufferings through the War Between the States, two world wars and the Carter administration before assuring CPACers, “We will survive the Obama years too.”

The economy, education, tax reform, God, guns and family were other key areas where speakers strummed the heartstrings of this constitutionally conservative crowd. Speeches are one thing, but the most important question left unanswered is this: Can the GOP win the White House in 2016? Or will the GOP lose in the same way it lost in 2012 – with lots of highly paid consultants, an embarrassing ground game and a timid approach to a vision for a great America? Based solely on the roster of CPAC speeches, we’re hopeful that history won’t repeat itself. But we’ll find out soon enough.

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