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Rand Paul Is So Hot Right Now

Millennials all want to stand with Rand: the Kentucky Republican wooed the younger crowd at CPAC. Caitlin Dickson on the libertarian who could be the future of the GOP.

If CPAC were a music festival, Jeb Bush or Paul Ryan might be the headliner, but Rand Paul would be the obscure indie band-turned-newly-hip main attraction. The senator from Kentucky’s now-infamous filibuster last week seems to have done for Paul what “coming out” did for Frank Ocean. Leaders of many of the young Republican groups considered a staple at the conservative conference said they observed an increase in young attendees, many of them undoubtedly here to stand with Rand.

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U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) arrives to address the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) March 14, 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland. (Alex Wong/Getty)

“The GOP of old has grown stale and moss covered,” declared Rand Paul to resounding cheers from an enthusiastic—and youthful—audience who not only agreed with his message, but illustrated it.

Edward King, the director of programs for Young Americans for Liberty, a nonprofit organization founded in the wake of Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign, has been at CPAC for the last six or seven years. While he said he has seen more and more young people are showing up to CPAC every year (the number representatives of his own organization having grown, he said, from 20 or 30 to hundreds in the last couple of years) he credits Ron’s son with attracting a new demographic of young people with the principles of libertarianism.

He’s the Man

State of the Union on Steroids

The Florida senator riled up the conservative crowd with a pitch to help the middle class, shrink government, and take on China. Howard Kurtz reports.

Marco Rubio delivered a State of the Union speech on steroids.

In a passionate, rapid-fire laundry list Thursday, the Florida senator drew loud cheers at CPAC as he delivered a paean to the “hardworking middle class” and called on conservatives “to be their voice.” It was an upbeat speech with strong nationalistic overtones.

Marco Rubio

Sen. Marco Rubio speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, on Thursday. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Holding up three glasses of water—a joking allusion to his much-mocked sip during the response to President Obama’s State of the Union—Rubio said it was a “foolish notion” that Republicans are consumed by infighting.

Haters

The Elephant in the Room

The GOP shunned Chris Christie this week, but the hugely popular New Jersey governor had the last word, striking out at partisanship at a memorable town hall.

With the “Star Wars bar” of the Conservative Political Action Conference (in other words, a bunch of aliens) kicking off Thursday morning, it was no coincidence that among the first speakers were Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, both known for their impulse to unleash hyper-partisan howlers that alienate anyone who isn’t a strident social conservative. 

CPAC is useful because it clarifies the dividing lines of the GOP civil war.  In the CPAC camp are co-sponsoring organizations like the Family Research Council, whose senior scholar recently stated that individuals who indulge in premarital sex should be “punished” by society. 

Chris Christie

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during a town hall meeting at St. Luke's Baptist Church in Paterson, New Jersey on March 12, 2013. (Mel Evans/AP)

On the other side of the GOP divide are figures with a demonstrated ability and determination to reach beyond the base and govern in a way that’s both effective and inclusive.

Extravaganza

CPAC Defiant in Obama Era

The conservative gathering kicks off with genuflections toward Reagan and dark warnings of socialism. Howard Kurtz reports from the scene.

In a gargantuan Maryland hotel on the banks of the Potomac River, the CPAC conference is at once a conservative echo chamber, bustling bazaar, and media marketplace.

It is a hermetically sealed environment where Ronald Reagan is praised; Jimmy Carter is reviled; and one Republican speaker, Rep. Louie Gohmert, is still arguing that America could have won the Vietnam War.

Senator Pat Toomey

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) speaks at the 40th-annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryand, on March 14, 2013. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

The three-day extravaganza, which kicked off Thursday morning, has no power to pass laws or set agendas. But the gathering, staged by the American Conservative Union, has become the place to be, if only because everyone else on the right is here.

interactive

Live Coverage from CPAC!

It's been called the "Star Wars bar" of conservative politics. Welcome to The Daily Beast's coverage of CPAC.

NEW PLAYER

Fox News, Watch Your Back

Soon Rupert Murdoch’s behemoth won’t be the only conservative cable news station around, the founder of One America News Network, set to be unveiled at CPAC today, tells David Freedlander.

A new right-wing news and talk station is coming to cable boxes later this year, The Daily Beast has learned.

The station, called One America News Network, is slated to announce its launch formally at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the annual gathering of conservatives, in Washington on Thursday.

130313-one-america-news-network-tease

Control room operators at Fox News studios in New York perform a live broadcast of "America Live" with host Megyn Kelly on October 10, 2011. (Jon Vachon/Getty)

The new network is a production of Herring Broadcasting, the San Diego-based company behind Wealth TV, a channel dedicated to appealing to and documenting the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

RIGHT THINK

A Motley Crew

The conservative movement’s leading lights are little more than a band of right-wing agitators promoting oppo research, says Media Matters for America’s David Brock.

Back in 1994, I spoke at the annual conference of the Conservative Political Action Conference, a who’s who of the conservative movement. I shared the stage with congressional leaders Bob Dole, Newt Gingrich, and Dick Armey; conservative luminaries like Jack Kemp; and neoconservative intellectuals Jeane Kirkpatrick and Bill Bennett.

Newt Gingrich at Conservative Political Action Conference

Newt Gingrich speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., on February 10, 2012. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Perusing the list of CPAC speakers this year gave me a very different glimpse into the state of the conservative movement. Yes, there are the requisite congressional leaders like Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor and a smattering of future party stalwarts like Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio (though not as many as might be expected: no Chris Christie or Robert McDonnell, both rejected for breaking party orthodoxies). The supporting cast is more revealing.

Other than CPAC regular Ann Coulter, who once said of the 9/11 widows, “I’ve never seen people enjoying their husbands’ deaths so much,” and noted thinker Sarah Palin, by far the most famous personage who will grace the stage is Donald Trump, who revived the birtherism scam as a supposed issue in the 2012 presidential campaign.

FANATICS

March Madness on the Potomac

The annual conservative gathering is always bad, says Michael Tomasky, but this year’s choices of main speakers seem designed to alienate as many Americans as possible.

So March Madness begins today. The basketball tournament? Bah. I mean CPAC. The conference just gets lamer and somehow more bizarre every year, this allegedly marquee gathering of the nation’s conservatives; and this year, with the longest speaking slots going to an irrelevant has-been and America’s most obnoxious man, the trajectory is downward on a scale so operatic and yet so pulverizingly tedious that I have difficulty comprehending it. Can these people really believe they are accomplishing something? On rereading that sentence, I partially take it back. They are accomplishing something, all right: showing America that they are mad as hatters and thereby helping to ensure the election of more Democrats.

Palin Republicans Conservatives

Sarah Palin delivers the keynote address to activists from America’s political right at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2012. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

I love, first of all, the irony of this year’s venue. Did I say irony? It occurs that there are more than one. The National Harbor in Prince George’s County is, in certain respects, an attractive enough place; any development sitting right on a river as broad as the Potomac is at that point (more than a mile) would have to be. But it’s an ersatz community built to resemble a real one, in certain ways not unlike the gusher of AstroTurf groups we’ve seen cashing those Koch brothers checks in recent years.

Then of course there is the fact that P.G. County has among the highest percentages of African-Americans of any county in the United States and is also home to one of the country’s largest black, middle-class populations. This reality has delivered the electoral impact you’d expect and then some. Of Maryland’s 24 voting jurisdictions—23 counties plus Baltimore City (Baltimore City and Baltimore County are two different entities)—P.G. County gave Obama his highest support level in the state, at 90 percent, higher even than Baltimore City.

PATRIOTS ONLY!

The Heresy Hunters of CPAC

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Participants talk with a representative from GOProud, an organization that represents gay conservatives and their allies, at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., February 11, 2011. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Ideological purity! Patriots only! The heresy hunters of this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference sniffed out and rejected those who aren’t ‘suitably’ right wing, like Chris Christie and GOProud. It’ll ensure the same losing result, writes Michael Moynihan.

Every year the doyens of the Conservative Political Action Conference issue a series of indirect proclamations on who qualifies as an echt conservative. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie? Not one of us; too chummy with the president during Hurricane Sandy and too squishy on gun control. The gay conservative group GOProud? We’re open to sinners—Newt Gingrich is a scheduled speaker, after all—but not ones who have contempt for the institution of marriage. Donald Trump? A sinner too, on wife No. 3 and pro-abortion rights to boot, he believes that President Obama might have been born in Kenya. Nevertheless, Trump is an “American patriot” popular with conservatives, said one conference organizer.

It’s hardly surprising that CPAC is interested in ideological purity, considering the right-wing confab is organized by the American Conservative Union, a group that provides “legislative rankings” to those in Congress who insist on differentiating between those “who protect liberty as conservatives and those who are truly liberal.” As its website explains, “ACU defines conservatism” (emphasis in original). And that definition seems rather narrow these days.

Chris Christie took on his own party during Hurricane Sandy.

This big-game hunting of RINOs (“Republicans in Name Only”), the replacing of unreliably conservative candidates with the undereducated and unelectable ones, lost the party a number of safe seats in recent years. And as anyone who has attended a recent CPAC has witnessed, the “grassroots activists” of the right—a rather different species from the average Republican voter—seem increasingly incapable of calmly arguing that America is being forced off the road to prosperity and onto the road to serfdom. Concerns about overweening government, which one could manage with sensible anecdotes about debt, drones, and taxes, are punctuated with an invocation of Marx or Mao. (At the 2011 CPAC, I spent 10 bizarre minutes chatting with the president of the John Birch Society, a “co-sponsor” of that year’s event.)

You Betcha

Palin Poised for Fizzy Return

From soda to CPAC, the ex-governor is seeking the spotlight

Are we missing Sarah Palin yet?

Could it be time for a mini-comeback?

You betcha.

I know, we all just wrote her political obituary after Fox News made her a lowball offer and her million-dollar-a-year contract came to an end. Palin was old news, yesterday’s story, out of touch in Wasilla, we declared.

file

Bob's on the left (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Allahpundit thinks Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell won't be sweating this one too much:

McDonnell doesn’t have to worry about reelection; Virginia, unusually, bars governors from serving consecutive terms. He also doesn’t really have to worry about the presidential primaries: He’s an attractive candidate on paper but he’s apt to be swallowed up by the star power of Rubio, Jindal, Christie et al. if he ran. Which I doubt he will, especially since he’ll have been out of office for years by the time the race begins. Unless he plans on challenging Mark Warner for Senate in 2014, he’ll have plenty of time to make amends to Virginia conservatives ahead of running again for governor in 2017 or challenging Tim Kaine for Senate a year after that. Or, of course, he could always team up with Christie to form a Bloomberg-backed independent RINO ticket in 2016 and rock America’s world.

Too Soon!

The Romney Revival Tour

The Romneys, who were sure that victory was their destiny, are emerging from their post-November recovery, writes John Avlon.

The Romney Revival Tour is under way.

Mitt and Ann Romney

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and wife Ann Romney at his election-night rally at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center on November 6, 2012. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post, via Getty)

After a winter’s shame-cation at their beachfront La Jolla, California, estate—replete with reports of crying jags and aimless days—Mitt and Ann are reaching back out to the American public with a Chris Wallace interview on Fox News Sunday, followed by a pilgrimage to the conservative enclave CPAC midmonth.

The question is whether anybody cares.

The Weird and the Right at CPAC

CPAC 2013 is where conservatives gather to discuss political and social topics to move forward as a unified group-but it's also where Minutemen in 18th-century garb and Transformers can be seen roaming the halls. Michael Moynihan talks to some CPAC-ers who march to the beat of their own drums.

Shooting Guns With The NRA

Want some tips for hunting? Michael Moynihan learns from the NRA at their 'lasershot' booth at CPAC 2013. And is that a Transformer peeking over his shoulder?

Plus

More on CPAC 2013

Our Stupid Political Spring Break

Our Stupid Political Spring Break

A make-or-break fight for a House seat for… eight months, the CPAC straw poll’s awesome predictive powers, and Eric Holder’s dizzying logic.

MONEY TALKS

Can Rand Make it Rain?

VOTER’S CHOICE

GOP’s Whack a Mole Addiction

SWEET 2016

GOP '16: Strong Field, No Leader

Fear The Beaver

The Rainbow Beaver Haunting CPAC