The vanguard of the GOP met last weekend at the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference in Washington, D.C. to hold their virtually meaningless straw poll. The thousands of mostly college-aged, orthodox, right-wingers in attendance were treated to three days of demagoguery from some their favorite fanatics. The event was coordinated this year by Chris Malagisi, the former director of political and new media training at the Leadership Institute and a professor of conservative history at American University. He was brought on by the American Conservative Union to revamp operations in the face of declining significance and competition from other conservative conferences such as the Values Voter Summit. Even though the conference lacked the heavy-hitters of the past like George W. Bush, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh there was still enough Republican aristocracy to please this gathering of true believers.
Marco Rubio of Florida kicked things off with a rabble-rousing speech regarding the predominance of conservatives in America which has already been declared false by PoliFact. Michelle Bachmann and Ann Coulter got together to plug the new Citizens United documentary: “Fire from the Heartland: Awakening of the Conservative Woman.” While Mitch McConnell lambasted Chuck Schumer for trying to hold Senate hearings on the rising power of super-PACs in the wake of the Citizens United ruling. Rick Perry's oratory struck an usually populist tone as he called for a clean up a K Street and Wall Street. CPAC also gave Kirk Cameron a venue to screen his latest propaganda piece “Monumental: In Search of America's National Treasure,” whose trailer is a must watch. John Cornyn raked Eric Holder over the coals for the Fast and the Furious scandal as well as his opposition to voter identification legislation which the Attorney General spoke out against in his most recent visit to the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Sarah Palin wrapped up the show with a typically speech designed to galvanize conservatives to support the Republican nominee, no matter how conservative his credentials might be.
Of course Romney, Santorum and Gingrich all got up on the stump but conspicuously absent from the convention this year was Ron Paul (who won the CPAC straw poll in 2010 and 2011) as well as the GOProud (the highly controversial, gay Republican organization) and The John Birch Society.
There was much excitement over the switch in balloting of the straw poll from purely paper to an option that allowed votes to be placed electronically on and iPad or iPhone. The reconfiguration did not stop the allegations vote rigging that has become typical of this event. Mitt Romney went so far as to bus college students in from all over the east coast to pad the ballot boxes, which paid off because he won with 38 percent with Santorum a distant second with 15 percent. Of course, CPAC awards no delegates so the endorsement is purely symbolic and has had little bearing on the primary race in the past.