38th Annual CPAC Draws Record Numbers

11,000 Conservative Activists Rally to Roll Back Big Government, Repeal Obamacare and Reclaim the White House in 2012 
February 10-12, 2011--From the opening speech by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) to the closing speech by Rep. Alan West (R-FL), speaker after speaker at the 38th Annual Conservative Political Action Conference (a project of the American Conservative Union Foundation) called for rolling back big government, repealing Obamacare, and electing a conservative president in 2012. 

David Keene, the outgoing chairman of the ACU, noted in a blog posting that broad conservative gains in the 2010 elections have given "our movement more advocates in elected positions than we have seen in a decade."  Further Keene stated, "Our conservative coalition is growing."  "While we don't, and never have, agreed on every important conservative issue, as President Reagan said 'If you agree with me 80 percent of the time, you are my friend,'" Keene wrote. 

Reagan spoke at CPAC a dozen times, and the centennial of his birth (February 6, 2011) was noted in a number of ways here.  The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation was one of nine CPAC sponsors, and attendees could grab small packages of jelly beans at its booth, in addition to entering a drawing for tickets to the first presidential debate of this cycle, to be held at the Reagan Library.  There was even a Reagan cake by the Cake Boss.

Attendees heard from 13 potential Republican candidates who may seek to follow Reagan to the White House (as of now there are now major announced candidates, and the ultimate shape of the Republican field remains unclear).  Of those prospects most frequently mentioned only former Gov. Sarah Palin, former Gov. Mike Huckabee and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman did not attend.  A surprise speech from Donald Trump, who said he is considering a run, provoked a boisterous response.  Many other elected officials and conservative leaders spoke at the conference, and attendees kept busy with a wide array of panels, training sessions, films, and receptions.  Offering a countering view, the Democratic National Committee issued a stream of rapid responses to major speeches and said Republicans who spoke at the conference want "to re-fight past battles and have no ideas for creating jobs or making America more globally competitive."   

In the lively exhibit space, which spread over two rooms, over a hundred organizations sought to inform and interest attendees in their efforts.  These included interest groups, partisan and ideological groups, party organizations, news organizations, and vendors selling everything from books to buttons.  Also represented were the Campaign for Liberty (Ron Paul), OUR America Initiative (Gary Johnson), Free and Strong America PAC (Mitt Romney) American Solutions (Newt Gingrich), and Friends of Herman Cain.  The controversy (1, 2, 3) over the inclusion of GOProud, a group representing gay conservatives, was barely noticeable.  There was a busy radio row and numerous book signings.  At one point a Sarah Palin imposter made the rounds. 

The libertarian-minded Rep. Ron Paul won the presidential straw poll for the second year in a row, gaining support of 30-percent of those voting.  However, many conservatives view Paul's calls for a more limited American national security role with concern (+), and skeptics also question, if he were to run, his ability to avoid being marginalized as he was in 2008.  Second in the straw poll was former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), seen by some observers as a weak frontrunner, at 23-percent.  Several leading prospects finished far back; Sarah Palin garnered just 3-percent and Mike Huckabee 2-percent.  
Straw Poll Results
(3,742 votes cast Feb. 10-11)
First Choice
Ron Paul
Mitt Romney
Gary Johnson 6%
Chris Christie
Newt Gingrich
Tim Pawlenty
Michele Bachmann
Mitch Daniels
Sarah Palin
Herman Cain
Mike Huckabee
Rick Santorum
John Thune
Jon Huntsman
Haley Barbour

Presidential Prospects
February 10
Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN)
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (PA)
Donald Trump
February 11
Former Gov. Gary Johnson (NM)
Former Gov. Mitt Romney (MA)
Sen. John Thune (SD)
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (MN)
Rep. Ron Paul (TX)
Herman Cain (GA)
Gov. Mitch Daniels (IN) [Reagan Banquet]
February 12
Gov. Haley Barbour (MS)
Former Amb. John Bolton

attended but didn't speak

Fred Karger
Randall Terry

not present

Sarah Palin
Mike Huckabee
More Speakers
February 10
David Keene
Sen. Ron Johnson (WI)
Sen. Rand Paul (KY)
Donald Rumsfeld w/ Dick Cheney
Rep. Paul Ryan (WI)
Speaker John Boehner [Presidential Banquet]
February 11
Panel on Balanced Budget Amendment
Gov Rick Perry (TX)
More Reagan Banquet
February 12
Andrew Breitbart
Panel on Repealing ObamaCare
Straw Poll Result Announced
Rep. Alan West (FL)

Exhibit Hall and Around and About
Overview | AmericaGetUp.com (Dale Peterson) | American Future Fund | American Petroleum Institute | American Tradition Partnership | Americans for Fair Taxation (Fair Tax) | Association of Mature American Citizens | Citizens United | Collegians For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) | College Republican National Committee | Conservative Party USA | Facebook.com/TheConstitution | GOProud | John Birch Society | Libertarian Party | Liberty on the Rocks | National Rifle Association | Republican Liberty Caucus | Republican Party of Puerto Rico | Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library | The Weekly Standard | Young Americans for Freedom | Selling | Radio Row | Faces.

Bachmann  |  Gingrich  |  Santorum  |  Trump  |  Johnson  |  Romney  |  Thune  |  Pawlenty  |  Paul  |  Cain  |  Daniels  |  Barbour  |  Bolton
Al Cardenas, a Florida businessman and attorney who was active in Reagan's campaigns, is the new chairman of the American Conservative Union.  Outgoing chairman David Keene is leaving after 27 CPAC conferences to become president of the NRA.  The announcement came on the eve of the conference (+).