Behind the scenes at CPAC

  • Sean Murphy (identified by his Project Veritas name) shows off his kilt and arctic fox sporran at a Project Veritas meet and great party in a bar at the Gaylord Hotel in National Harbor, MD on Friday night, February 27, 2015.
  • Party-goers pose for a picture with a hired performer dressed as Osama bin Laden at a Project Veritas meet and greet party in a bar at the Gaylord Hotel in National Harbor, MD on Friday night, February 27, 2015.
  • Stacked chairs in the main ballroom are ready to be redeployed for the Ronald Reagan Dinner at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015.
  • A hired performer dressed as a pimp talks with people in line to get into a Project Veritas meet and greet party in a bar at the Gaylord Hotel in National Harbor, MD on Friday night, February 27, 2015.
  • The jacket of a Jeb Bush supporter is seen draped over a chair at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015. A contingent of attendees walked out of Bush’s speech at CPAC, where his name was routinely booed by many in the crowd whenever it was mentioned.
  • “Uncle Ray” Grodecki shucks oysters at a Maryland Republican Party hotel room gathering at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday night, February 27, 2015.
  • Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is seen wearing his hat “Packin’ Heat” at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015. The sheriff spoke on a panel about the second amendment.
  • Attendees vote in the Straw Poll at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015.
  • Security guards huddle outside the entrance to a room where Donald Trump is giving an interview to Sean Hannity at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015.
  • “Reagan on a horse! Free poster!” Members of the Young Americans for Freedom hand out posters of the Gipper on a horse at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015. “Reagan is the spirit animal of conservatives,” said one of the members, who asked not to be identified.
  • Donald Trump and Sean Hannity come out of a room after an interview at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015.
  • Conservative website mogul Amy Bobbitt of Virginia Beach, VA runs her two websites and Facebook page fro her phone while at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015. This is her second year at the conference and she says she likes the diversity of opinions in the Republican Party, but is particularly fond of Ted Cruz.
  • The remnants of a Rand Paul poster is seen next to a trash can at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015.
  • Ashley Scorpio, a student from Ottawa, Canada plays a cash grab game at the Eberle Associates booth at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015. She proclaimed that nothing smells as good as American money.
  • Ashley Scorpio, a student from Ottawa, Canada is paid out after winning money in a cash grab booth at the Eberle Associates booth at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015. She proclaimed that nothing smells as good as American money.
  • Jesse Jensen of Family Industries silk screens t-shirts at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015.
  • Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is mobbed after speaking at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015.
  • Obama squeeze toys and mini cupcakes are put out as giveaways at the Weekly Standard booth in the exhibition hall at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015.
  • Sarah Palin greets fans after speaking at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Thursday, February 26, 2015.
  • Attendees sit in the main ballroom’s “Premium Lounge” sponsored by the Family Research Council at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015.
  • Mary Foster of Ferris State University takes a picture of a photo of Donald Trump while waiting for him to speak at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015.
  • A poster of Sarah Palin riding a horse is seen on a rack in a meeting room at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015.
  • Howard “Cowboy” Wooldridge, co-founder of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, speaks to two Prince Georges County police officers at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015.
  • Oliver North speaks to a small group gathered for an agenda item called “Children of America’s Military Heroes Meet & Greet” at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015.
  • Andrew Schindler (left) and Blaze Drinkwine of the College Republicans of Minnesota gather around Senator Ted Cruz in a hallway at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Thursday, February 26, 2015.
  • Television cameras are set up in the back corner of the main ballroom at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015.
  • A spent roll of stickers reading “Big Government Sucks” is seen discarded on a chair at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Thursday, February 26, 2015.
  • Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is seen walking the halls at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Thursday, February 26, 2015.
  • Chris Bolognese of Springfield, VA shows off her boots at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Thursday, February 26, 2015. Bolognese also writes conservative-themed poetry, sharing the couplet: “Liberalism is a brain disorder, big government, punishing success and open borders.”
  • Senator Ted Cruz speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Thursday, February 26, 2015.
  • Members of the media and premium pass holders watch Senator Ted Cruz speak at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Thursday, February 26, 2015.
  • A board displaying speakers’ remaining time indicates that Senator Marco Rubio must finish speaking at CPAC in National Harbor, MD on Friday, February 27, 2015.

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Updated

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 SantorumLikely 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

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography

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