Social issues were low on the agenda when organizers constructed the schedule for this year's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
The three-day schedule featured only a few main stage panels on the culture wars that have motivated the movement for the last two decades. It was obvious the social conservatives were on the defensive: The most star-studded group discussion—featuring anti-ERA leader Phyllis Schlafly and moderated by National Organization for Marriage co-founder Maggie Gallagher—on "The Phony Divide Between Fiscal & Social Conservatives" focused on explaining why social issues weren't irrelevant in a time of economic turmoil. The few side-room panels on abortion and same-sex marriage drew few big names, resulting in sparse attendance. The take-away was clear: Conservatives concerned with the culture wars were expected to sit back this year and let the anti-tax, anti-government regulation zealots take the stage.
For a while now, I’ve been convinced of Mitt Romney’s eventual triumph in the Republican presidential primary. It’s not that he was the most well-liked or conservative candidate—we have years of evidence to show that neither are true—but that he was the only candidate with a campaign that could win. So far, however, Republicans have done everything they can to avoid the Romney coronation; they made Rick Santorum a viable player with a win in Iowa, they elevated Newt Gingrich with South Carolina—and after a stop in Florida, where Romney pummeled his opponents with negative advertising—they have returned to Santorum with wins in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado.
You have to imagine that Mitt Romney gave himself quite the pep talk this morning before his big Conservative Political Action Conference speech in Washington. Where his address at the 2008 CPAC signaled the end of his campaign, this afternoon he needed to jumpstart his 2012 run, especially since the people in the audience have been the hardest for him to woo. But, true to form, he did far more resume-waving than rabble-rousing.
CPAC, DC—The Citizens United case is back in the news this week with the Obama campaign's announcement that they would coordinate to help raise funds with the super PAC Priorities USA. As the presidential campaign ramps up, it's easy to forget what the actual Citizens United organization is: a mini-film studio with a conservative bent.
The group is all over CPAC this week, airing their films in the CPAC Theatre, hosting a blogger briefing Wednesday, and sponsoring a panel Thursday morning titled "Advancing the Pro-Life Movement through Media.” And of course, they also have a booth selling DVDs of their various films in the CPAC vendor basement.
REPUBLICAN CENTRAL, DC—Every Republican presidential nominee is speaking in CPAC's main ballroom today except Rep. Ron Paul. He sent his son, Sen. Rand Paul, in his stead last night and the libertarian's message is being spread—if not always explicitly—down in the CPAC dungeon of booths.
Unless there’s a psychic shift in the Republican Party soon, this past Tuesday evening the campaign for its presidential nomination became sui generis. On its face, the race conforms to the establishment-versus-insurgency template that’s characterized past contests, such as the 1976 GOP race in which Ronald Reagan nearly took the nomination from sitting incumbent Gerald Ford, and the 1980 race in which Edward Kennedy couldn’t liberate Jimmy Carter of the Democratic nomination, so he stole the party’s heart instead. The dynamic in both cases was that once the party dutifully resolved to remain in its marriage to the dour Gerald Ford or Carter, it had one last doomed fling with heartthrobs Reagan and Kennedy in order not to forget who it really yearned for.
If you spend your time amongst politically-involved liberals these days, you've probably participated in a lot of head-shaking conversations, along the lines of, "Wow, is this Republican race awesome, or what?" It is, without doubt. And one of the things it has showed us is that, what political scientists call "candidate quality" is a more complicated factor than we usually think. And Mitt Romney turns out to be the most complicated candidate of all.
CPAC, D.C.—The controversy around the Obama administration's decision to mandate birth-control coverage in health insurance has dominated the talk at CPAC. "You may not agree with what that religion agrees. That's not the point. The point is, the First Amendment still applies," Marco Rubio said in his early morning address on Thursday.
Bouncing between Republican campaign events over the past few months, I've often run into GOP voters who wish they could support Ron Paul, but just can't mark the box next to his name. They love his End the Fed, slash every government regulation take on the economy, but despair over his isolationist foreign policy.
CPAC, D.C.—Day one of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was full of members of Congress palling around with white nationalists, conservatives offering dating advice, and Marco Rubio ripping into the president for considering birth control an essential health-care service.
Right-wing members of Congress have never shied away from associating with fringe agitators, but appearing with a white nationalist is beyond the pale. On Thursday afternoon, Iowa Representative Steve King jovially appeared on a panel with Peter Brimelow, an anti-immigrant author that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has termed a white nationalist. Brimelow wrote Alien Nation and founded the online community VDARE, which SPLC describes as "a nonprofit that warns against the polluting of America by non-whites, Catholics, and Spanish-speaking immigrants."
The class of commentators who celebrate politicians outside the two-party system might finally realize their dreams of a third-party candidacy in 2012. These agitators of a middle path—typically white, upper-middle-class elites terrified of the nation's debt but ill at ease with social conservatism—have tried their hand in past years at disrupting the normal political process. In 2008, a group called Unity '08 planned to run a bipartisan presidential ticket but fell apart before the election.
We all know that the National Rifle Association is one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, interest group in Washington. With their money and their committed supporters, they can carry candidates to victory or defeat as they choose, just as they've done in the past. Right? Well, maybe not. I'm doing a series of posts for Think Progress based on research I've done trying to address the question of the NRA's electoral effectiveness in a systematic way, something that has rarely been attempted before. Here's an excerpt from the first installment:
Let's stipulate at the outset that almost everyone on the right you hear talking about the issue of contraception coverage is cynically adopting this position for no other reason than they believe it to be a handy cudgel to bash the Obama administration. (One notable exception is Rick Santorum, who genuinely believes that contraception is wrong, since it unleashes our dirty, dirty thoughts and allows people to have sex without being punished for it.
As you’ve probably noticed by now, the response of conservative Catholics to President Barack Obama’s decision to require full birth control coverage from employers who provide health insurance has been to accuse the administration of an attack on religious freedom. These Catholics, and in particular, the Catholic Bishops, would prefer a regime that allows a broad exemption for Catholic-affiliated hospitals, even if they employ nonadherents and serve the general public. Anything less, they argue, is an assault on their Constitutional rights.