Quick Takes on CPAC Speeches

I will be doing a live-blog of sorts covering Day 2 of CPAC. Stick with me throughout the day as I do quick-takes on the major speeches. Will catch up on the early speeches of Gingrich, Rubio and Perry, and then move on to Paul, Trump, Santorum and Bush later.

General Notes:

  • There’s a guy near the stage dressed up in colonial garb who waves his tri-corner hat when speakers walk out (Gingrich gave him a shout-out). CPAC should really hold a Cosplay event so conservatives can wear costumes of their favorite Republican superheros.
  • The Q&A following the speeches is a really great idea. Helps showcase a speaker’s ability to give prepared speeches and think on their feet.
  • There’s some really questionable choices as to who’s on the speakers’ list. I guess conservatives just enjoy listening to non-stop speeches from anyone and everyone for days on end.
  • Seriously, the guy from Duck Dynasty gave a long, rambling, incoherent speech. He just threw in a bunch of conservative-sounding words into a complete mess of presentation. Conservatives look absolutely idiotic when they throw in lunatics like this who make fools of themselves between speeches from Republicans who might actually be president.

Newt Gingrich

  • Starts out acknowledging College Republicans and pitching his new documentary.
  • Focuses on “Radical Islam.” Says he’s going to talk about a “very controversial” aspect of it, a view which is supported by literally every attendee in the room.
  • “When Joe Biden is confused, you know it’s just Joe Biden.” CPAC is always entertaining for the jokes, some funnier than others.
  • Keeps calling it the Obama-Kerry worldview. Republicans are going to learn that they need to switch that pretty soon here to Obama-Clinton. Surprised they’re not looking forward more to a singular focus of tearing down Hillary.
  • Newt just needs to be a history teacher. He loves his documentaries and podcasts.
  • Says we should allow trade with Cuba as soon as the Castro brothers are gone. Side-note: seriously, how long are these guys going to live?
  • Question: “If you give the President one compliment, what would it be?” Gingrich: “That I hope his farewell speech comes as soon as possible.” I don’t think that’s what they were going for, Newt…
  • Overall: Not bad, hit the main conservative applause lines. But he’s one of those speakers whose deep knowledge of topics can sometimes hurt – he gets too into the weeds in extemporaneous remarks and doesn’t weave a full narrative.

Marco Rubio

  • This is who I’m really interested in hearing from. Rubio is a great speaker and finally something a little different than the typical Republican candidate.
  • He hits the “Obama-Clinton” foreign policy. More on point than Newt.
  • “Here’s the good news: we are one election away from triggering a new American century.”
  • Weird: I get a Mario Cuomo cadence-vibe from how Rubio presents and structures his speech.
  • Positive, forward-looking, hopeful. Takes themes of American history that all can appreciate, not just a far-right crowd.
  • “America doesn’t owe me anything. But I have a debt to America that I will never be able to repay.” Relates the story of his parents coming to America. Gets a little emotional.
  • Great speech, and one that could be used to appeal to everyone: Tea Party conservatives, business Republicans, swing voters.
  • Very energetic responses to Sean Hannity’s questions.
  • Right now (and it’s still early), Marco Rubio is the best and most compelling likely candidate in the Republican primary.

Rick Perry

  • Enters to AC/DC “Back in Black.” Gotta give that Texas bad-ass feel.
  • Perry’s strategy: sound pissed-off, amped-up. If I shout really loud it means I really care.
  • Again, with the “Radical Islam” schtick. Agree or not with Republicans take on Obama’s refusal to call it as such, it is a nice way to avoid talking about real solutions to the incredibly difficult problem of how to destroy the terrorist organization.
  • Heavy focus on foreign policy from Perry. Which is a bit odd, since his strength is his economic record in Texas.
  • The video feed glitched-out halfway through Perry’s speech. I’ll come back to it later.

Donald Trump

  • “You gotta go hard, and fast and firm.” Trump’s plan to, um… assault ISIS?
  • Trump’s strategy: talk about things in really tough language means you’re super-serious about getting it done.
  • “Common Core is bad… 2nd Amendment is good.” Real in-depth stuff here, folks.
  • At least Donald Trump would be fun in debates – he’d mercilessly go after other candidates like Jeb Bush.
  • Trump: I build stuff, vote for me.
  • Literally no substance at all in Trump’s speech. Why on earth does anyone pretend that this guy is serious in any way. That being said, I would watch a reality TV show based on Trump essentially trolling Republican voters on a presidential run.
  • Trump says he would replace Obamacare with “something so much better.” I bet that polls well.

Rand Paul

  • Paul has a large and noisy contingent of supporters in the audience. Will they stick around for the others?
  • Rand Paul always sounds like he’s giving a speech to rally people already with him, as opposed to trying to win over new people in the crowd.
  • “I will propose the largest tax cut in American history.” Then says he’ll balance the budget in 5 years. That would be pretty ambitious.
  • Paul sounds a little stilted in delivering this pre-written speech. It’s well-delivered, but just doesn’t sound too natural.
  • “President Paul” chants broke out during his speech from his assembled supporters. He needs to get out of his bubble from time to time if he wants to win the larger segment of the Republican base needed to get the nomination.
  • Asked if he could have just one constitutional amendment, he replies “term limits.” Boring play to his audience.

Rick Santorum

  • Begins by referencing back to his last CPAC appearance after primary victories. He needs to keep reminding people how well he did in 2012 because he’s not getting that kind of traction yet this time. Says he won so many “because I stood for someone – the little guy, the American worker.”
  • Made a really dumb Kenya/Obama joke, gets little applause.
  • Santorum’s taking a lot of credit for initiatives he took on with the military after 9/11, but I can’t imagine he had that big of an impact from his Senate committee.
  • When Santorum details his experiences in the Senate, the policy fights he brings up just reminds you how long it’s been since he’s been in elected office.
  • “We don’t need a weatherman-in-chief, we need a commander-in-chief.” Throwback to the old crazy Obama attacks of 2008.
  • Santorum one of the only ones willing to lay out some actual ideas of how to attack ISIS, including taking possibly-unpopular stance of putting 10,000 American troops on the ground.
  • The first question posed to Santorum is “Would you strengthen our military?” Uh, no, I’d completely shut it down and fire all our troops. I mean, come on, CPAC, come up with some better questions.
  • Overall, a pretty good speech by Santorum. But I wonder how much of it is something these conservatives have been hearing from him for years. He chose not give his “blue collar conservative” pitch that got little applause at earlier forums in Iowa.

Jeb Bush

  • It’s brave of him to put himself in front of such a hostile crowd, but Bush sounds and seems very uncomfortable and nervous. I wonder if he’s not doing a speech so he can keep Sean Hannity next to him in case he gets heckled.
  • Hannity asked him tough questions about his policies conservatives don’t agree with, immigration reform mostly. Many boos from the crowd and some heckling.
  • Bush seems very defensive and somewhat confrontational. His supporters in the crowd cheer over boos and heckles, making for a very tense atmosphere. I’m not sure if this performance is helping Bush in the larger context. Further, his supporters’ cheers felt unnatural and forced at certain times. Hard to judge how effective his speech actually is.
  • Bush finally got a reprieve when Hannity asked him about the school vouchers Bush tried to implement in Florida. Bush is very good when speaking about the education policies he fought for while Governor. Still has some problems with Common Core with the base.
  • “No regrets” over the Terri Schiavo case, Bush said in response to a Hannity question. That’s going to be very problematic for Bush in a general if that issue gets back in the presidential campaign conversation.
  • Overall, Bush gave a very strong performance, and wasn’t afraid to confront and push back on some of the issues he differs from the most conservative audience members. It was a little too defensive and awkward at times, but I think he did well. Especially in the Republican primary, strength is rewarded.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 2/27/15


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