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Posted at 5:30 PM ET, 02/12/2011

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

By Chris Cillizza

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) -- an annual gathering of, well, conservatives, that doubles as a proving ground for would-be presidential candidates -- ends 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 Two Highlights

Highlights from Day Three:
Allen West closes CPAC
Ron Paul wins straw poll
John Bolton focuses on what 2012 frontrunners ignored: Egypt
Walsh lays into health-care law
Connie Mack focuses on 'thugocrat' Hugo Chavez
Barbour steers clear of foreign policy
Photos from CPAC 2011: Day 3

Day Three: 2/12/2011:

6:24 p.m.: Allen West closes CPAC

In the wake of Ron Paul's divisive straw poll win -- there were loud cheers competing with even louder boos -- Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) gave a red meat speech that drew the crowd together.

Like many other CPAC speakers, West invoked President Lincoln -- his name may have been dropped more than Reagan's this weekend -- in the context of facing up to responsibility. He called for fiscal discipline -- "start looking at every government program and agency created in the past ten years" for cuts, and he singled out the EPA in particular for slashing.

On Egypt, West said he "applaud[s] the flame of freedom finding its way into this Arab nation," but compared the situation to Iran after the revolution or Afghanistan at the rise of the Taliban. He called for "peace through vigilance" without "political correctness," which "has no place in our national security strategy."

On abortion, he pledged to "defend and honor the unborn." He declared that "there is a definitive American culture."

In short, there was nothing new in what West said -- but his speech hit all the most resonant notes, and the crowd was on its feet half the time. (Ron Paul's isolationism and Gary Johnson's drug legalization initiative -- despite their straw poll popularity -- were left out.)

5:34 p.m.: Ron Paul wins CPAC straw poll

Ron Paul emerged victorious in the Conservative Political Action Conference's annual presidential straw poll, the second straight year that the libertarian-leaning Texas Congressman has won the vote. Continue reading...

1:59 p.m.: John Bolton focuses on what 2012 frontrunners ignored: Egypt

While most Republican presidential hopefuls speaking at CPAC barely mentioned the situation in Egypt, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton devoted nearly his entire speech to it.

Bolton, who is toying with the idea of a presidential campaign, filled a foreign policy void at the conference. Many speakers attacked Obama by saying he was weak in the face of our enemies. But few gave detailed critiques of the president's foreign policy. Only Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) devoted much time to Egypt, and his isolationist message is outside the Republican mainstream. Continue reading...

12:52 p.m.: Walsh lays into health-care law; 'could care less' about losing next election

On a panel titled "Repealing Obamacare," freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) declared that the House vote to repeal last year's health-care legislation was "not symbolic," and that he would not rest until the law was overturned. Walsh also said that, along with bankrupting states and ending private insurance, the health-care bill would "gut Medicare."

"I'm a tea party guy ... if we don't do what we promised to do, this revolution is gonna overrun us," he said. "Nothing short of repeal is gonna satisfy this freshman class."

Walsh asked the crowd for their support as freshman legislators push for unpopular spending cuts. "I will govern these next two years perfectly willing to lose in two years," he said. "I could care less."

Walsh touted his decision to not take government health-care benefits, a choice 16 freshman Republicans have made. Others have argued that taking coverage from their employer has no bearing on their positions on health-care policy.

"I will not accept a dime" in government coverage, he said, until the government repeals "this frightening piece of legislation."

11:44 a.m.: Connie Mack focuses on 'thugocrat' Hugo Chavez

Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) spoke after Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) to a half-empty ballroom, in a speech focused entirely on Venezuelan leader (or, in Mack's words, "thugocrat") Hugo Chavez.

Mack's speech started out light. He praised "our nation's greatest congressperson" - his wife, Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), who was in the audience. When she stood up, he asked, "Will you be my Valentine?" (She said yes.) Then he cracked a joke: "As Barack Obama might have said to his house majority two years ago, 'I wont keep you long.'"

In fact, Mack -- the head of the House Sub-Committte on Foreign Relations for the Western Hemisphere - went pretty long, and very serious.

It's something of a pet issue for Mack, who may challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson next year. Thousands of Venezuelans live in Florida; they may not be as powerful a constituency as Cuban-Americans, but their numbers are growing and state Republicans have taken notice.

Mack's father held the seat Nelson now occupies. A new Quinnipiac poll suggests Nelson, who has never been hugely popular, is vulnerable in 2012 - his approval rating is just 45 percent. That said, the same poll found that independents overwhelmingly support Nelson, and he beats a generic Republican 41 to 36.

9:40 a.m.: Barbour delivers reliable laugh lines, steers clear of foreign policy

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who is considering a presidential run, touted the work of Republican state leaders (himself included) in his CPAC speech Saturday morning.

He repeatedly mentioned his "old boss" Ronald Reagan, but he also praised governors around the country - even "some Democrat governors like Phil Bredesen in Tennessee" for cutting spending.

There were some reliable CPAC laugh-lines - about Democrats' love of taxes, about the media, about Obama trying to be like Reagan. But there was also a detailed explanation of how Barbour cut Medicaid rolls in Mississippi and a long criticism of Obama's energy policy. (Barbour thanked former House speaker Newt Gingrich for focusing on the same issue in his CPAC speech).

While his remarks were almost entirely focused on economic issues, Barbour got some of the most enthusiastic applause for when he said that under his leadership, Mississippi had become "the safest state in America for an unborn child."

Unlike many other presidential hopefuls, Barbour ignored foreign policy completely. There was no mention of 'American exceptionalism' or President Obama's approach to outside threats.

Barbour, who came under fire recently for saying he did not remember the Civil Rights Era as "that bad" - closed by invoking Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War: "Lincoln saved our country -one nation, indivisible- and he established our Party as the Party of freedom."

Barbour's delivery was low-key. He never raised his voice or used incendiary language, and he barely deviated from his prepared remarks.

Voting in the CPAC presidential straw poll ended before Barbour spoke, so his showing there won't reflect on this speech. Regardless, the not-quite-full ballroom (it is Saturday morning) gave him an enthusiastic reception if not the sort of adoration that Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) inspired yesterday.

Photos from CPAC 2011


Photo Credit: Rachel Weiner


Photo Credit: David Weigel

By Chris Cillizza  | February 12, 2011; 5:30 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2012, Republican Party  | Tags:  CPAC  
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Next: Ron Paul wins CPAC straw poll

 
 
 
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