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Posted at 5:27 PM ET, 02/10/2011

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

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 -- starts today. The Fix is on the ground, live-blogging the three-day event as it happens. Check out the schedule here.

Day Two Highlights

Day Three Highlights

Highlights:
Paul Ryan: Government can't 'win the future'
Rand Paul suggests raising retirement age, cutting defense spending
Trump: Ron Paul can't win
Santorum: Obama refuses to condemn evil
Gingrich calls for replacement of EPA
McConnell responds to Kyl retirement
Labrador cracks a birther joke
Noem: 'I'm nobody special'
Ron Johnson: Liberals created 'culture of entitlement'
Bachmann calls for conservative unity

2/10/10: Day One

8:48 p.m.: Boehner promises to cut more than $100 billion

"We are going to exceed our pledge. ... Next week we are going to cut more than $100 billion," Boehner said during a dinner in his honor. "And we're not going to stop there.

5:27 p.m.: Paul Ryan: Government can't 'win the future'

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) gave a philosophical rebuke of economic liberalism in his late-afternoon speech.

An attentive but muted crowd broke into cheers at Ryan's promise that House Republicans will cut more from the budget than called for in the "Pledge to America," as well as his reference to Austrian economist Frederich Hayek, beloved by many conservatives for his work "The Road to Serfdom."

America is at a "tipping point," the House Budget Committee chairman warned, between re-committing to "the founding principles of economic liberty" or giving into "the fable that there is no future unless government 'wins the future' for us" (a reference President Obama's State of the Union catchphrase).

While his speech was heavily focused on the economy, Ryan alluded to social issues. "Economic conservatism and social conservatism come from the same moral root," he argued. "You cant give up one to defend the other and they must never be separated."

Ryan also used fewer laugh lines than other speakers, but he did end on something of a light note, comparing the 2012 election to his home-state Green Bay Packers' Superbowl win last week. "The second half is ours," he declared.

4:23 p.m.: Rand Paul suggests raising retirement age, cutting defense spending

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Thursday that the social security retirement age needs to be gradually raised and that Republicans need to stomach some cuts to the defense budget to get the kind of spending reductions they want.

Talking about the country's financial situation at CPAC, the tea party favorite said the GOP shouldn't be afraid of cutting defense spending.

"If you refuse to acknowledge that there is any wasteful defense spending, you are a big-government conservative," Paul said.

Paul also said the social security system needs to be fixed and suggested that people be given the opportunity to opt out of social security.

4:03 p.m.: Trump says Paul can't win

Donald Trump said Thursday that he will announce whether he will run for president by June. But while he weighs his options, The Donald is going to have some fun.

Speaking to a packed and rowdy room that was decidedly mixed about Trump's presence at the conference (boos were scattered before, during and after the speech), Trump pointed to his successful business record.

Trump also had some choice words for the field of potential Republican candidates, saying he wishes there was a clear choice in the field right now. When supporters of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) suggested their candidate was the man, Trump was blunt.

"Ron Paul cannot get elected," he said. After a chorus of boos, Trump didn't back down, repeating the statement while saying that he likes Paul.

Read the full story.

3:31 p.m.: Trump spotting

Donald Trump made his triumphant entrance to the Conservative Political Action Conference with all the bluster that is to be expected of the business/reality TV mogul.

Trump, surrounded by an entourage of at least a dozen as he entered the Marriott Wardman Park, briefly stopped to answer a few questions.

But before the first question could be fully lodged, Trump cut the reporter off.

"Who are you?" Trump asked of CNN's Jim Acosta.

After Acosta identified himself, Trump asked whether he had seen Trump's appearance on CNN earlier this week. Acosta answered in the affirmative.

Finally, the press conference was allowed to begin.

Asked what his purpose for showing up was, the potential presidential candidate said only, "I'm here because I'm Donald Trump. I was asked to be here. I have a lot of respect for the group. I'm a Republican. Let's see what happens."

Asked about the situation in Egypt, a noncommittal "we'll see what happens."

One more question about President Obama, a one-sentence answer, and the press conference was over, just more than a minute after it had begun.

Trump is slated to speak soon.

2:43 p.m.: Santorum: Obama refuses to condemn evil

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) laid into President Obama's response to the unrest in Egypt on Thursday, accusing him of siding against an American ally.

"President Obama has refused to look at the situation in Iran and Egypt and around that world and to call evil, evil. To identify the enemy," Santorum said. "This is someone who doesn't believe in truth and evil and America."

Santorum spoke to a mostly empty conference room after a lunch break, sporting a pair of glasses that he doesn't generally wear.

Read the full story.

1:35 p.m.: Newt Gingrich calls for abolition of EPA

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called for abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency as part of a broader re-assessment of American energy policy in his CPAC speech.

"It's time we passed an aggressively pro-American energy policy," said Gingrich to a crowded room of conservative activists who greeted his proposals warmly if not with great fervor. "What you have from Obama Administration is a war against American energy."

Gingrich, the former speaker of the House who is widely considered to be a candidate for president, was in classic form -- delivering what felt at times like a college lecture weaving together topics as seemingly disparate as the German purchase of the New York Stock Exchange and flexfuel vehicles in Brazil.

Read the full story.

12:34 p.m.: McConnell responds to Kyl retirement

Like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) before him, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell used his CPAC speech to call for a united conservative push against Democrats and President Obama. But he diverged from his prepared remarks to speak to the news that Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) is retiring.

Without going into specifics, McConnell said, "we'll have disagreements, but we'll unite around common goals."

The Kentucky senator devoted a large chunk of his remarks to the health-care law. "We're not about to retreat," he said. "We're just getting started."

McConnell also praised his "friend and right hand," Senate Minority Whip Kyl, who just announced that he would retire in 2013. "It's a big loss for the country," McConnell said. "But the good news is that he'll be here for two more years. We're gonna miss Jon Kyl."

11:40 a.m.: Raul Labrador cracks a birther joke

Freshman Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) brought birtherism to the stage at CPAC.

Speaking this morning, Labrador alluded to the fact that he was born in Puerto Rico.

That still makes him an American, though, he said.

"And I do have the birth certificate to prove it," Labrador said, apparently making a reference to the belief, held by some conservatives, that President Obama was not born in the United States. Many of these "birthers" have called for the president to release his birth certificate.

Labrador was one of the biggest hits of the first morning of CPAC, pointing to his win as evidence of the GOP's increasing diversity.

Labrador was one of the surprise winners of November's election, overcoming the odds in both the primary and general election.

11:24 a.m.: Kristi Noem: 'I'm from South Dakota. I'm a farmer. I'm nobody special'

Another rising GOP freshman, Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), had a pretty simple message during her speech at CPAC. To steal a phrase from Christine O'Donnell - "I'm You."

Noem sought to connect with the audience on personal level, describing her political roots and why she's a Republican, playing up her farming and business background.

Noem said her family farm got hit "real hard" by the estate tax when her father was killed in a farming accident - a set of circumstances that compounded the tragedy.

11:00 a.m.: Ron Johnson: Liberals have created 'culture of entitlement'

Newly minted Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who pulled one of the big upsets in the 2010 election over Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), suggested that the United States is drifting toward "a culture of entitlement and dependency."

"I fear we are losing America. I don't think I'm being overly dramatic. I don't think I'm overstating my case," Johnson said.

"Liberals have done an excellent job convincing Americans that they are entitled to benefits, and someone else will pick up the tab."

Johnson followed Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) on the speaking docket and he began his remarks by calling her a "hard act to follow." He talked about his decision process in running for Senate, citing President Obama's health care bill and his own experience with the American health care system, which he credits for saving his daughter's life.

Johnson said he would never cast a vote in order to get reelected.

10:49 a.m.: Michele Bachmann calls for conservative unity

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) kicked off the conservative movement's biggest annual party in Washington Thursday morning by exhorting all conservatives - those focused on fiscal, social and natural security issues - to come together to continue Republican electoral gains in 2012.

She declared that conservative unity is the only way to win what she called the "Triple Crown" next year - retaining the House of Representatives, regaining Republican control of the U.S. Senate and relegating President Obama to a single term.

"I believe in the three-legged stool," she said. "I believe in this coalition that is our winning combination. I believe you are incredibly talented. I believe you are motivated for 2012. I believe we can do this."

Read the full story.

9:00 a.m.: Excerpts from Gingrich's speech

Newt Gingrich's press shop has released some more info on his speech, coming up at 12:30. "We need an all-American energy plan to replace Obama's war on American energy," is the theme of the speech. Some more talking points:

The EPA has transformed from an agency designed to "protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment" into a job-killing, centralizing engine of ideological litigation and regulation that blocks economic progress. It should be replaced with an agency that brings together science, technology, entrepreneurs, incentives, and local governments to maintain a clean environment and a strong economy.

8:04 a.m.: Donald Trump making surprise CPAC appearance

Reality television star and real estate magnate Donald Trump is a last-minute addition to the CPAC lineup. Trump has been saying for months that he is seriously considering a presidential bid. Just last night he told CNN: "I love this country. I hate what's happened to this country. We're a laughingstock throughout the world. We're not respected." Inside the Marriott Wardman, a group called ShouldTrumpRun(.com) handed out fliers, encouraging attendees him in on the straw poll. Slate's David Weigel reports that Trump is also meeting with the gay Republican group GOProud.

2/9/10

11:55 a.m.: Allen West will give keynote speech

Freshman Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) will get a plum speaking spot at CPAC, he announced via Twitter on Wednesday. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) had been offered the platform but declined the invitation.

7:57 a.m.: Laying out the CPAC stakes

In today's Morning Fix, we take on the stakes for each of the eight candidates with their 30-minute speech -- organized by the day they are slated to address CPAC. Read it here.

2/8/10

3:18 p.m.: Newt Gingrich to focus on energy policy

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has already released some excerpts of his Thursday speech. He plans to focus on energy policy, in particular his call to replace the Environmental Protection Agency with an Environmental Solutions Agency "that achieves better environmental outcomes through an emphasis on the transformative power of new technology and a collaborative approach with industry and state and local governments," Gingrich's communications director wrote in a press release.

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  | February 10, 2011; 5:27 PM ET
Categories:  Republican Party  
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Next: Afternoon Fix: Jeff Flake to make Senate decision soon, Paladino won't run

 
 
 
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