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Posted at 9:30 AM ET, 02/ 7/2011

How to make a splash at CPAC

By Jennifer Rubin

Despite the boycott efforts of certain social conservatives, thousands of conservatives will amass in D.C. beginning Thursday for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). This is the first of many opportunities for conservatives to size up the 2012 presidential candidates and for the media to observe conservatives sizing up the 2012 field. Will Mitt Romney get through a speech without addressing RomneyCare? Will the crowd warm to Tim Pawlenty? Will Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) break out of the pack of unknowns?

CPAC has not generally been a predictor of the GOP presidential primary. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was no CPAC darling and did not attend the gathering the year before the 2008 race. Nevertheless, he went on to grab the nomination. But this does not mean CPAC is insignificant. To the contrary, in a year in which the race is wide open, the candidates have an opportunity to begin to define themselves.

Romney's task is simple: Present an argument to confront his major weakness (RomneyCare) or, alternatively, carve out a theme so impressive and decisive that health care becomes a handicap but not a fatal issue for him.

For Pawlenty the challenge is to show that he can light a room on fire. Without going negative at this early stage he has to begin to define himself as the "not Romney" choice. He need not mention Romney by name, but he needs to lay out his case, namely, "You're not the conservative to take on Obama if you've championed a health-care plan that coerces Americans to buy insurance they don't want."

Pawlenty, Thune and others will help their cause by making a connection to social conservatives (those who have not taken their marbles and gone home). This is not simply a message of fidelity to social conservatives' issues. Rather, it is the beginning of a courtship, a process of conveying to a key group within the Republican primary electorate that they do more than "check the box" on the social agenda. That's the bare minimum. But to capture this constituency a contender will need to convey that he shares with them a perception of America and America's place in the world. Greatly underestimated is the degree to which foreign policy -- support for Israel, understanding of the Islamist threat, recognition of America's leadership in the world -- is central to evangelicals and values voters. They are not hiring an accountant to balance the books; rather they are looking for a conservative who can champion a restoration of American values and project America's influence in the world.

As with so much else in primary politics it matters far less who wins the tally (in this case, a straw poll) than who exceeds expectations. It is not by any means a decisive event; but it is the first of many that will shape the race.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 7, 2011; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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Next: Friday question answered


Haven't heard them mentioned in the conservative community but either Judd Gregg or Bob Corker would make a terrific candidate for the VP slot. Broad based appeal with a ton of financial experience, and not a lot of negative record behind them.

Unfortunately, neither state will be crucial to GOP chances, so this is proably just wishful thinking on my part.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 7, 2011 9:47 AM | Report abuse

"But to capture this constituency a contender will need to convey that he shares with them a perception of America and America's place in the world. Greatly underestimated is the degree to which foreign policy -- support for Israel, understanding of the Islamist threat, recognition of America's leadership in the world -- is central to evangelicals and values voters. They are not hiring an accountant to balance the books; rather they are looking for a conservative who can champion a restoration of American values and project America's influence in the world."

It's difficult to square the above fantasy with the fact of our government's bankruptcy.

Posted by: rcaruth | February 7, 2011 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Prediction: Many Dems will vote in Repub primaries (for Palin) in an attempt to make her the nominee.

Posted by: vausa22923 | February 7, 2011 12:31 PM | Report abuse

CPAC IS insignificant, other than the priceless video of the fat, sweating, manic, bouncing Rush Limbaugh from last year.

Every attendee is a guaranteed d-bag!

Posted by: danw1 | February 7, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

It’s time for leadership…
Romney’s “CEO” accomplishments:
* Earned over 260 million in the private sector – 25 years
* Took Utah Olympics 300 million deficit and turned it into a 100 million dollar surplus – the most successful games on record.
* Took Massachusetts 1.5 BILLION dollar deficit and turned it into a 600 million dollar surplus withOUT raising incomes taxes (he did raise some “fees” on other services – about 2 million worth.)
See the relationship between Romney’s private CEO experience and how he applies it to non-profit and Government?
Mitt Romney has doled out nearly $130,000 in contributions to Republican candidates already in 2011, an early sign of both financial strength and a commitment to party.

It's time we understood the difference between Obama Care and Romney Care…
On Good Morning America, Mitt said: “I’m not going to apologize for the rights of states to craft plans on a bipartisan basis to help their people.” This is no longer a bad answer!
Newt Gingrinch responded to the critical view of Romneycare:
• Romney is firmly committed to repeal of Obamacare
• It’s not accurate or fair to compare Obamacare and Romneycare
• Romney vetoed many provisions of the Mass bill and Romney was overridden by Democrats
• The original Romney bill was better and practical than what the liberal Democrats did to it
• The Democrats overrode Romney’s original bill on a whole series of items
• The issue is not as clear cut as Tea Partiers think or the liberal media has made the issue out to be
Conservative Think-tank = the Heritage Foundation responded to Romneycare:
– Heritage On Romney’s Individual Mandate: “Not an unreasonable position, and one that is clearly consistent with conservative values.” [Heritage, ½8/06]
– Heritage On Romney’s Insurance Exchange: An “innovative mechanism to promote real consumer choice.” [Heritage, 4/20/06]
– Heritage On Romney’s Medicaid Expansion: Reduced “the total cost to taxpayers” by taking people out of the “uncompensated care pool.” [Heritage, ½8/06]

Mitt has been successful because he has surrounded himself with qualified people. His Administration Team will help us turn this country around!

Posted by: AzHombre | February 7, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

How to be a hit at CPAC? THAT'S EASY! This is what you say:

* Obama is a Muslim-Kenyan-Socialist.

* Uganda has the right policy on gays.

* Cutting taxes on the rich helps the poor.

* Wall St has our best interests at heart.

* Trust the markets.

* Saddam hid his WMD at his local ACORN chapter.

* Darwin was the Anti-Christ, at least until Hillary came along.

* Tax fraud is nothing but a self-help tax cut.

* Keep government out of Medicare.

* Reagan cured cancer, but Clinton threw away the formula.

* Shipping jobs to China is the price we have to pay to destroy unions.

* W fulfilled his commitment during Vietnam.

* Lending money to deadbeats is financial innovation.

* Israel is more important than the USA.

* The NRA will save us from China's People's Liberation Army when it sneaks across the border from Mexico.

See? It's so easy, even a caveman could do it!

Posted by: Garak | February 7, 2011 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Yawn.....someone wake me up when the Republicans decide to do something other than look for more ways to screw over the American middle-class.

I've got news for the extremist Republican party:

Now that you have some actual power again (the House) you won't be able to get away with spending all of your time throwing verbal bombs at the Dems, going golfing and then hitting the DC cocktail circuit at night every day.

You either CREATE JOBS or you will be gone in 2012 so fast that your heads will spin.

Chop, chop Repugs!

You've got two years!

Time's a wastin'!

And by the way, we're all still waiting for Republican congressmen to offer to give up their own gov't run, taxpayer funded health care plan !


Posted by: DrainYou | February 7, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Remember Journalism 101? Who, what, when where? You have to be a real insider to follow what Rubin is talking about here.

For everyone else, here are the basics from the American Conservative Union website:

CPAC 2011 is held February 10-12 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington D.C. It is the nation’s largest annual gathering of conservative activists, policymakers and students. In addition to speakers and panels, CPAC will feature book signings by the nation’s leading conservative authors, live broadcasts of national and local radio talk shows, hands-on training sessions from grassroots activism to media strategy, and much more.

This is how low they have sunk. CPAC is giving Jonah Goldberg a journalism award. Final proof that journalism is dead.

Posted by: jonponder | February 7, 2011 4:15 PM | Report abuse

3 days of monotone blathering? Pinch me, I'm dreaming. Hopefully in the future we can send robots, or maybe mail our IPads to be put into robots. Then again I guess we can depend on what the pundits say in this Miss America without a net.

Posted by: 5inchtaint | February 7, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

I believe if you let the agencies study themselves they will make very minor
adjustments and you won’t get to the several hundred thousand civil servant
reductions accomplished under POTUS Clinton. I think you should set up very
aggressive straw man proposals and force the agencies concerned to develop two
courses of action, one being an implementation plan for your aggressive straw
man proposal and the other a counter-proposal of their choosing that saves the
same amount. I recommend your aggressive proposal be to eliminate at least 5 of
the 15 Executive Departments by merging them into another while at the same time
reducing the size of the Dept being absorbed by 50%.

Dept of Treasury absorbs Dept of Commerce

Dept of Labor absorbs Dept of Education and Dept of Transportation

Dept of HHS absorbs Dept of HUD

Dept of Interior absorbs Dept of Agriculture

While not executive departments, you could also merge Dept of Army and Dept of
Air Force into a single Dept similar to Dept of Navy handling Navy and Marine

If you don’t lay out huge ideas like this so they at least know the target is
big, not small, you will get very marginal salami slice proposals. I believe
once you define what is truly a federal function and what can be returned to the
states, you will find that the federal portfolio of some departments can be
handled by an undersecretary or assistant secretary. Even if you only have
success on one or two of the above it would be great.

I do not underestimate the scope of the challenge. While one would hope merging
departments would eliminate multiple HQ positions (protocol, comptroller, EEO,
etc) look at this on last week’s USAJobs: SES Vacancy for Associate
Administrator for Civil Rights, Federal Highway Administration, Department Of
$119,554.00 - $179,700.00 /year. A small office well below Exec Dept level is
hiring an EEO coordinator that will earn more than a U.S. Senator.

Posted by: Just_the_Facts2 | February 7, 2011 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Here's how to be a hit:

Acknowledge that we lost over 500,000 jobs in December of 2008 and the banks were on the verge of collapse,

And then admit that we DIDN'T in either 2009 or 2010.

Oh, nevermind - this article is about how to be a "hit" as in "suck-cess" -- not how be a "hit" as in the target of a hit man.

In that case, just be a psychopathic, narcissistic pig who wants more money.

Posted by: jakrdy | February 7, 2011 10:44 PM | Report abuse

AssHombre wrote: Obamacare Romneycare bla bla bla.


Um AstHombre, you forgot this little tidbit of FACTUAL info. The Republicans have been demanding a mandate for decades, and yes, the healthcare reform legislation does resemble Mitt Romney's plan, but guess what.

Obama's didn't. He proposed the public option.

Now go to bed and dream of being Donald Duck in a cave filled with money and jewels and that President Obama is your Bugs Bunny.

Posted by: jakrdy | February 7, 2011 10:49 PM | Report abuse

The Islamist threat?

We have a threat of terrorism, and from destabilizing regimes in the Middle East.

The "Islamist threat" is cast in broader terms - the Muslims of the world are intent on taking it over and subjecting us all to sharia law and rule by a renewed caliphate.

It's tinfoil-hat stuff, but increasing numbers of "conservatives" take it seriously and will undoubtably campaign on it.

Good Grief!

Posted by: j3hess | February 8, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Calling all Liberals!
Calling all Liberals!

For God's sake, pay attention to this! You want to cede power back to the Right. By all means, ignore them and their little meeting. See how far that gets you.

We who value progressive policies need to look closely at these people. Work with them where we can (economics?), and be ready to counter or diffuse the anger and /or fear where we can't (backward social policy). We can't assume because we don't agree with much of what they have to say that what they have to say is worthless. Any person who gives up reason for bias has already lost the argument. Listen to them. Be open minded.

And if nothing else, make plans to crush their stupid little Goldwaterish fantasies with sound argument and reasonable proposals. Bring it on!!!

Posted by: ashtar377 | February 8, 2011 5:39 PM | Report abuse

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