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Posted at 5:20 PM ET, 02/11/2011

CPAC 2011: The Conservative Political Action Conference (Live Coverage, Day Two)

By Chris Cillizza, Aaron Blake, and Rachel Weiner

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) -- an annual gathering of, well, conservatives, that doubles as a proving ground for would-be presidential candidates -- continues today. The Fix is on the ground, live-blogging the three-day event as it happens. Check out the schedule here. And check back for live updates.

Day One Highlights

Day Three Highlights

Highlights from Day Two:
Mitch Daniels calls debt the new 'Red Menace'
Cain says criticism of Obama is patriotic, not racist
Rick Perry defends states rights
Paul gets adoring crowd for isolationist message
Pawlenty to Obama: 'Stop apologizing'
Hatch says he's sorry for bailout vote, but that it averted depression
Hatch: 'I'm prepared to be the most hated man in this Godforsaken city'
Mike Lee harkens back to 1773
Thune continues drumbeat of Obama criticism
Thune says Kyl's retirement has little impact on his decision
Tea party activist announces Snowe challenge
Gary Johnson played off stage
The scene at CPAC
Romney rips Obama
Freshmen brag about spending cuts

9:47 p.m.: Mitch Daniels calls debt the new 'Red Menace'

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said Friday that the nation's growing debt amounts to a new "Red Menace", equating the country's fiscal situation to its Cold War fight with Russia.

"It is the new Red Menace, this time consisting of ink," Daniels said at his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference. "We can debate its origins endlessly and search for villains on ideological grounds, but the reality is pure arithmetic.

The Soviet threat during the second half of the 20th Century was the main theme of Daniels' speech, which lasted just over a half-hour and was chock full of dense rhetoric and almost devoid of applause lines.

Daniels made no mention of his own political plans in his address -- and remained silent when the Fix asked him directly about it earlier in the night -- but did lay out a broad platform for conservatives heading into 2012 with a near-singular focus on reining in the nation's debt.

Read the full story

5:21 p.m.:Cain says criticism of Obama is patriotic, not racist

Herman Cain said Friday that all too often, President Obama's critics get painted as racists.

Cain is the only declared presidential candidate to take the stage at CPAC this week, and like the president, he is black. He noted that even he has been accused of being racist for his criticisms.

"It's that if you disagree with that liberal leader, then you must be a racist," Cain said. "You are not a racist, you are a patriot."

Cain said he has been called a "sellout," an "oreo," and "shameless" for speaking out against a president of his own race.

Few people remained in the ballroom for Cain's speech, which was the last one of the afternoon. But those who were there treated him to several standing ovations.

4:55 p.m.: Rick Perry defends states rights

Texas Gov. Rick Perry delivering an impassioned defense of states rights against the alleged encroachment of the federal government in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Committee this afternoon.

"I am deeply, deeply concerned with this federal government and its willful neglect of their responsibilities," said Perry.

He repeatedly touted the 10th amendment -- and the need for the federal government to leave states alone to succeed (or fail). He called health care a "shipwreck" and said that the federal government was an "abject failure" in its approach to border security.

Perry's message was delivered in a more-than-sorrow-than-in-anger tone. Several times during the speech Perry posed for dramatic effect, once even wrapping his arms around himself and remarking in a theatrical aside: "It's the darnedest thing."

While Perry received a positive reception, the reaction was somewhat muted -- particularly in the wake of the rousing reception Texas Rep. Ron Paul received just before Perry took the stage. After Paul's speech, hundreds of people -- mostly on the younger side -- filed out of the Marriott Wardman Park ballroom despite former Florida Republican party chairman Al Cardenas' best efforts to keep them in their seats.

Perry made only passing reference to President Obama and the 2012 presidential election. His name had been floated as a possible presidential candidate but his decision to sign on as the head of the Republican Governors Association likely foreclosed that possibility.

"Run for president," one man yelled out during Perry's speech. The Texas governor didn't acknowledge it.

4:36 p.m.: Paul gets adoring crowd for isolationist message

Photo of line to get a book signed by Ron Paul, courtesy of Slate' David Weigel

In front of a packed crowd filled with young fans, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) sought to connect his long career to last year's Republican wave."The revolution is continuing," Paul declared, making special note of one 2010 win: His son's victory in the Kentucky Senate race.

Once he got going, though, Paul made it clear that he does not agree with Republican leadership on everything.

"The PATRIOT Act is literally the destruction of the Fourth Amendment," he declared, to huge applause. "I'm still against foreign aid -- for everybody." On spending cuts, he lamented," Half the people in this room won't cut one penny from the military."

The most jarring divergence from other major CPAC speakers came when Paul addressed "American exceptionalism," a popular theme the past two days.

"We're certainly living in an exceptional country," he said, "but I think where we go astray on exceptionalism ... is when we go around the world trying to force people to be like us ... force doesn't work." He dismissed the "so-called neoconservatives" who think we can democratize other countries.

The youngish crowd was largely on Paul's side -- he got multiple standing ovations. Many of the audience members were there specifically for him; there were long lines to get out of the auditorium when the speech ended. A swarm of fans followed him for a book signing.

3:46 p.m.: Pawlenty to Obama: 'Stop apologizing'

Tim Pawlenty on Friday lodged some of the harshest criticism yet of President Obama's foreign policy, telling the president to "stop apologizing for our country."

"Mr. President, with bullies, might makes right," Pawlenty said, drawing a standing ovation from many in attendance. "Strength makes them submit. Get tough on our enemies -- not on our friends.

Pawlenty, like Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) yesterday, also cracked a birther joke: "Now, I'm not one who questions the existence of the president's birth certificate. But when you listen to his policies, don't you at least wonder what planet he's from?"

Read the full story.

Hatch says he's sorry for bailout vote, but that it averted depression

3:15 p.m.: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said during a panel discussion that he is sorry for his vote for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailout, but that he believes the bill averted a depression.

The crowd erupted when someone in the audience asked him about the vote - which is at the heart of Hatch's potentially difficult 2012 reelection campaign. Hatch apologized but also justified the vote and said it was the right thing to do.

"You may disagree, but you're not sitting there having to make these decisions. I probably made a mistake voting for it," Hatch said. "At the time, we were in real trouble and it looked like we were ready for a depression.

"I believe we would have gone into a depression."

The crowd wasn't letting Hatch off the hook until the moderator, the National Tax Limitation Committee's Lew Uhler, scolded the audience for a lack of civility.

2:48 p.m.: Hatch: 'I'm prepared to be the most hated man in this Godforsaken city'

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who faces a potential primary challenge in 2012, promised Friday to that he will be so fiscally conservative that he is willing to be "most hated man in this Godforsaken city."

Following a speech by his new Utah colleague Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the longtime Utah senator took the stage and continued his effort to win back the good graces of conservatives.

Hatch, you see, is facing a potentially treacherous battle for the Republican nomination in 2012. Lee beat Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) for the nomination last year, and now conservatives have set their eyes at taking out Hatch.

In response, Hatch has done his best to empathize with conservatives and ward off the challenge. Pitching a balanced budget amendment Friday, he promised to go to great lengths.

"I'm prepared to be the most hated man in this Godforsaken city in order to save this country," Hatch said. "And I need your help."

Hatch said that, in his 34 years in the Senate, fiscal conservatives have never constituted a majority in the chamber.

But he said there's still hope.

"I intend to get reelected in 2012," Hatch said. "I guarantee to you that I'll do everything under my power to get this mess under control."

Hatch was greeted to polite, if unenthusiastic, applause. One person booed when he said he intended to win reelection in 2012.

2:30 p.m.: Mike Lee harkens back to 1773

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) spoke the tea party language in his CPAC speech -- in fact, he recycled many of his lines from a Tea Party Express town hall earlier this week.

The youngest senator in Congress, Lee compared the current political situation to 1773: "Ruled by a king on one hand and a president on the other; in this case, a president who thinks he's a king."

Lee touted his balanced budget amendment without mentioning the one proposed by fellow Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, who spoke immediately after.

Lee has said he will not commit to supporting Hatch.

2:13 p.m.: Thune continues drumbeat of Obama criticism

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) hit many of the same themes already heard at this year's CPAC gathering of more than 11,000 conservative activists.

"Last year, the president talked about spending," Thune said. "This year, he talked about 'investment.' For those of you who don't have your Obama State of the Union decoder ring, 'investment' is just Washington code for 'more spending.

Thune acknowledged one disadvantage he would face if he does run for president: a lack name recognition. He turned that to his advantage Friday by telling a striking personal story: How his grandfather and great-uncle came to the U.S. from Norway, changed their name from Gjelsvik to Thune, after the Norwegian farm they worked on, and started a new life here working for the railroad and later running a hardware store.

"The truth is I've never held a book signing," Thune said. "I've been to Iowa plenty of times, but it's usually on my way to South Dakota. And the closest I've come to being on a reality show is CSPAN's live coverage of the Senate floor."

1:20 p.m.: Thune says Kyl's retirement has little impact on his decision

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said the prospect of replacing Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) as Senate Republican Whip has little impact on his deliberations about whether to run for president.

Kyl announced Thursday that he will not seek reelection, freeing up the No. 2 job in the GOP's leadership ranks. Thune is currently No. 4 on the leadership list, as the Senate Republican Policy Committee chairman.

Thune was asked in the hall's outside the ballroom whether Kyl's retiring affects his plans.

"Not really," Thune said. "We've been focused on this for a long time, going through a process, trying to determine whether it's the right thing to do. Obviously, things are changing all the time."

Thune also said the response to his speech at CPAC (he's scheduled for 1:30 p.m.) likely won't sway him.

"At some point, it just becomes a gut-level decision," Thune said. "But certainly, this is an event that is important in testing out whether the things that you're saying connect with the audience."

12:41 p.m.: Tea party activist announces Snowe challenge

Tea Party activist Andrew Ian Dodge just announced his candidacy against Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) in the 2012 primary.

Dodge leads the Maine Tea Party Patriots and has been weighing a campaign in recent months. At a small press conference at CPAC, he said he feels called to run.

He joins former congressional candidate Scott D'Amboise in the primary with Snowe.

Neither is considered a top-flight candidate, but Snowe could have problems against a legitimate tea party challenge, given her moderate record in the Senate.

Read the full story from Aaron Blake.

11:50 a.m.: Gary Johnson played off stage

Gary Johnson, the libertarian former New Mexico governor who got a CPAC speaking spot at the last minute, was played off-stage during his Friday morning speech. Johnson is best known for supporting marijuana legalization.

A Johnson staffer told Talking Points Memo: "Yeah, they played him off." Watch:

11:33 a.m.: The scene at CPAC

There's all kinds of different things going on at CPAC outside the main ballroom -- from smaller panels to impromptu political meetings to stands with people hocking and giving away various goods.

A few examples:

-A man urging people to "vote for Gary Johnson in the straw poll." Johnson is the former New Mexico governor perhaps best known for urging the legalization of marijuana. (He nabbed a last-minute speaking slot here after initially being shunned.)

-LOTS of Ronald Reagan memorabilia. LOTS.

-The American Conservative Union is selling a member rankings brochure for $5. (HINT: They are free online)

-Townhall.com and HotAir.com hocking t-shirts, yo-yos and books by Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and -- naturally -- a book about the Reagan Revolution

-Richard Dreyfuss doing an interview with Pajamas TV.

-Big Reagan posters on the same table as big Palin posters.

-A voter registration booth next to the National Rifle Association's table.

-Mobs of media waiting for VIPs as they enter through a side entrance at the hotel. (The scrum for Donald Trump on Thursday was quite aggressive.) http://voices.washingtonpost.com/thefix/republican-party/cpac-2011-the-conservative-pol.html#trump

11:08 a.m.: Romney rips Obama

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney opened Friday's CPAC convention session with a sharp attack on President Obama, accusing the president of dithering on the economy and naivete on foreign policy.

"Let me make this very clear," he said. "If I decide to run for president, it sure won't take me two years to wake up to the job crisis threatening America. And I won't be asking Timothy Geithner how the economy works - or Larry Summers how to start a business. I know."

Notably absent from the speech was any reference to health care. But there were lots of jokes: "Saul Alinsky is out, Jeffrey Immelt is in," ... "Obama went from 'Change you can believe in' to 'Can you believe this change?'" ... "What we're watching is not Brave New World... it's Groundhog Day" ... Obama's response to unemployment is "'Let them eat organic cake.'"

Read the full story from Dan Balz.

10:03 a.m.: Freshmen brag about spending cuts

At a mimosa-fueled get-together with this morning, Slate's David Weigel reports that new members were taking credit for Republicans' promise of deeper spending cuts:

We worked all day yesterday, we had meeting after meeting, to get this $100 billion we promised we would cut," said Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo. "As Larry the Cable Guy would say, we got 'er done. Trouble is, $100 billion is like throwing a deck chair off the Titaniic, so we've got to work harder."

"We sat down here, the freshman class did, yesterday morning, and said $100 billion is the minimum," said Rep. Bill Flores, R-Tex. "And what number did you hear yesterday afternoon? $100 billion. That's because the freshman class stood up and said, 'We can get the leadership to where it wants to go.'"

The $100 billion in cuts announced Thursday was up from the projected $74 billion that House Republican leaders had earlier anticipated making. Under pressure from conservative members, including much of the freshman class, leaders ditched the lower estimate and embraced the higher figure, which they had originally laid out last year in their Pledge to America.

The Fix is covering CPAC 2011 live, but we want to know what you are looking for at the gathering this year? Send your thoughts via #cpac2011on Twitter and we'll post some responses right here.

By Chris Cillizza, Aaron Blake, and Rachel Weiner  | February 11, 2011; 5:20 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2012, Republican Party  | Tags:  CPAC  
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Next: Mitch Daniels calls debt the new 'Red Menace'

 
 
 
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