Friday, February 19, 2010

CPAC All Over the Place

Summary: Just when it appeared conservatives were coming to a cohesive message, their annual conference produces a strange and wide array of views.

Following the political blogs today, one can’t help but see a lot of coverage of the Conservative Political Action Conference. One thing I couldn’t help but notice is the lack of collective discipline in message.

Politico reported today that “less than an hour before Tiger Woods was set to explain himself in a press conference, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty urged conservative activists to follow the golfer’s wife and ‘take a nine iron and smash the windows out of big government.’”

Then Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) apparently embraced the “Party of No” image…

“…after a year that saw every single House Republican vote against the stimulus bill ... Republicans in Congress are back in the fight, and they are back in the fight on the right…

When it comes to more borrowing, the answer is no. When it comes to more spending, the answer is no. When it comes to some health care summit that is nothing more than a photo-op to pave the way for Obamacare 2.0, the answer is no.”

And Rep. Michele Bachmann accused President Obama of “choosing decline” for America.

Additionally, there was some infighting among the different factions of conservative activists. A Log Cabin Republicans type group, GOProud, got into something of a shouting match with the National Organization for Marriage - an anti-gay marriage group.

Then a lawyer from the Bush Administration who assisted lawmakers in drafting the USA PATRIOT Act made the interesting argument that Obama is killing too many terrorists. His speech received both applause and hissing.

Yet perhaps the strangest thing about the entire event was the warm embrace of the moderate Republican - at least in his history governing Massachusetts - Mitt Romney. Even his likely presidential primary rival, Sarah Palin, appeared to be backing him today.

There are a lot of rules about message in politics - one of them is clarity. For months the GOP had done a very good job explaining themselves with one clear idea: Obama equals massive deficits.

At CPAC, they’ve been all over the place. To the average onlooker, it would be difficult to say what exactly conservatives and Republicans stand for after today.

Obviously, this is meant to be more of a conservative pep rally than an appeal to the less-political voter, but I still was surprised to see such a lack of message discipline from prominent politicians and political groups.

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