There will be plenty of cattle calls for Republicans with national ambitions in the coming months, but one notable event was held over the weekend in the nation's first primary state. The inaugural New Hampshire Freedom Summit, co-sponsored by the Koch brothers' Americans For Prosperity, Foundation*, drew quite a crowd of likely candidates: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Mike Huckabee, each trying to out conservative the other.
NBC's Mark Murray and Carrie Dann had a good piece on the event this morning, noting how clear it's become that today's Republican Party is "more distant from the Bush family" than at any point since early 2009.
At the [event] Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) delivered one of the more well-received lines at the conference when she criticized the Common Core education standards that Jeb Bush supports. "We need to replace Common Core with some common sense!" she said. In fact, NBC's Kasie Hunt says Common Core was the loudest applause line at the confab. The crowd also booed when another speaker, Donald Trump, mentioned Jeb Bush's recent remark that illegal immigration is an "act of love."
The Bushes support comprehensive immigration reform, but at the New Hampshire Freedom Summit, immigration reform was a non-starter. The Bushes support Common Core education standards, but at the New Hampshire Freedom Summit, Common Core is seen as a dangerous part of a government conspiracy. The Bush administration launched expansive government surveillance programs as part of a sweeping counter-terrorism agenda, but at the New Hampshire Freedom Summit, the right has suddenly decided it finds such efforts outrageous.
Benjy Sarlin reported this jaw-droppper from Huckabee's speech: "My gosh, I'm beginning to think that there's more freedom in North Korea sometimes than there is in the United States. When I go to the airport, I have to get in the surrender position, people put hands all over me, and I have to provide photo ID and a couple of different forms and prove that I really am not going to terrorize the airplane -- but if I want to go vote I don't need a thing."
Ordinarily, the right is content to compare contemporary life in the United States to Nazi Germany, so perhaps Huckabee's comparison of American policies to North Korea's dictatorship should be seen as progress?
That said, I don't recall the right raising similar concerns when the Bush/Cheney administration created many of these policies over a decade ago. Perhaps it's just a delayed reaction -- a very delayed reaction.
Regardless, the Granite State event made clear what kind of red meat will dominate GOP pandering in the coming months and years, and the fact that the Republican id is much further to the right of the Bushes' conservative vision is emblematic of the party's general radicalization.
What's more, let's not forget that New Hampshire is the state that's been known to support more moderate and pragmatic GOP presidential hopefuls over their more extremist challengers. That this rhetoric was on display in this state is itself a sign of the times.
All told, more than 700 people reportedly attended the event, not including the legion of politicians, their aides, and the reporters covering the gathering.
* Correction: This piece originally said the event was co-sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, but as it turns out, it was actually co-sponsored by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.