Behind the scenes at CPAC
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Conservatives around the country gathered here this week for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), a traditional showcase event for GOP presidential candidates. The four-day confab drew a star-studded lineup of speakers, as well as crowds of aspiring young politicos.
Friday featured former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Likely White House contenders speaking from the main stage on Thursday included Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and former HP executive Carly Fiorina.
Other conservative personalities included Donald Trump and “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson.
The speakers fired off early and often, lobbing harsh criticism at Hillary Clinton for an alleged ethics violation involving foreign donations to her family’s foundation while she served as U.S. secretary of state. Christie fielded questions about whether his bombastic manner of speaking would be a detriment if he makes a bid for president.
In a question-and-answer session after his speech, Walker was asked how he would fight the terror group ISIS. In his answer, the Wisconsin governor referenced his battles with labor unions in his state as evidence that he’s ready to take on large-scale national security issues. The comparison drew fire from fellow likely GOP 2016 hopeful Rick Perry, who called the comment both “inappropriate” and a “mistake.”
The audience at CPAC tends to skew right and libertarian – Rand Paul won its last two presidential straw polls, Ron Paul two of the three years before him – with many college activists making the trek to see their favorite politicians up close and do some networking. Some even found time to look for a different kind of candidate: a potential spouse.