Over the next few days, I’ll be covering the inevitable circus that is this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, unraveling mere miles away from my cozy Cleveland Park nook at the Marriott Washington Wardman Park.
Some of my daily coverage will appear at Medill on the Hill. Some of it will trickle in through 140-character dispatches at my professional Twitter account. And some of it will undoubtedly be shared through my not-so-professional Twitter account.
Either way, I’ll treat this blog post as an open thread and post periodic updates throughout the weekend.
By the way, “GOLDWATER” is such an easy find in the official CPAC 2012 word search at the back of the convention program. You’re welcome.
UPDATE, 10:15 a.m. Thursday:
With this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference less than two hours underway, speakers are already returning to a central theme: Who will represent them come November.
Although they remained mum on specific preferences, the morning’s speakers did offer a vague recipe for their ideal candidate.
During the convention invocation, Bob Reccord, the executive director of the Council for National Policy, said conservative voters want a commander-in-chief who will be “characterized by substance, not simply style.” The country needs leaders “more concerned about principle than polls” and “guided by character more than charisma,” he added.
In his conference introduction, American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas called the upcoming election a “chance to restore the social fabric of our nation.”
“This conference formally begins our journey for a hard-fought victory in November,” he said as the half-filled Marriott Ballroom erupted into cheers.
Whichever contender winds up as the GOP nominee should recognize America is a “nation where people are big and government is small,” Cardenas added.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., was more emphatic about picking the right candidate to go toe-to-toe with President Barack Obama in November.
“Regardless of which of the four we have, we need a candidate with courage” and the skills necessary to advance the country, he said. “We need to pull all those things together, and no matter who the nominee is, we can’t ignore any of them.”
In one of the morning’s stand-out applause lines, DeMint brushed off the notion of working with his colleagues across the aisle in Congress.
“I can guarantee Giants coach Tom Coughlin did not tell his guys to go out on that field and work with the other guys,” he said. “The only way we’re going to come out of this is to beat the other guys.”
UPDATE, 11:50 a.m. Thursday:
Sen. Marco Rubio this morning delivered a scathing review of President Barack Obama’s first term, saying the Obama administration has compromised what he called the “American example.”
“The president of the United States looks like he’s a really good father, he’s a really good husband,” Rubio said, briefly pausing, “but he is a terrible president.”
The Florida Republican told CPAC attendees that Obama cannot run on his first-term record in the lead-up to the general election in November. The president barely mentioned it in his State of the Union address earlier this month, Rubio added.
Obama is stuck making the argument that “the only way for some of us to do better is for some of us to do worse,” Rubio said.
The senator continued that Obama has endangered the “American example,” the idea that the United States acts as model for democracy for other countries.
That’s the reason people in other nations risk their lives to achieve democracy — because they’ve seen how well it works in America, Rubio said.
“In this 21st century, who will win?” he asked the audience. “Whose ideas will continue to spread across the world?”
Rubio’s trademark charisma was evident as he addressed the fullest Marriott Ballroom yet today.
At the beginning of his speech, he joked his colleagues may be already fatigued after their sixth vote of the congressional year.
“Everyone’s exhausted in the Senate, people passing out from all these hard votes,” Rubio said.
And he opened his speech with a sarcastic remark that played well among CPAC attendees.
“It’s hard to get a Teleprompter in this town,” Rubio said. “There’s a guy who uses a lot of them.”
UPDATE, 1:15 p.m. Thursday:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed this afternon to make President Barack Obama’s questionable economic record known as he seeks a second term this fall.
He said Americans are in an economic mess not because of a “tsunami in Japan or debt crisis in Europe,” but because Obama drastically “reconfigured” the economy when he took office three years ago.
“We’re in it because the president got everything he wanted for two long years,” McConnell continued, referring to the 2010 midterm elections that led to a Republican resurgence on Capitol Hill.
McConnell added the president will have plenty of time to play golf after being defeated in November.
The Kentucky Republican also brushed off Obama’s claim that the economy is slowly recovering under his administration’s policies. McConnell instead chalked up any positive economic growth to GOP voters putting a “restraining order on [Obama] and [then-House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi] in 2010.”
“So if I were President Obama, I would keep the champagne on ice,” McConnell told CPAC attendees. “This is not an economy to be proud of.”
At the start of his speech, he acknowledged planned protests by Occupy DC unraveling outside the Marriott Washington Wardman Park, where the annual gathering of conservatives is being held through Saturday. McConnell paired the White House with the Occupy movement, saying Obama’s surrogates have “made an art form out of the orchestrated attack.”
“This president seems to have forgotten he was elected to lead all Americans,” McConnell said. “He was elected president of the United States, not the Occupy Wall Street fan club.”
UPDATE, 3:30 p.m. Thursday:
House Speaker John Boehner told CPAC attendees this afternoon that every few weeks, he wakes up, turns on his iPad and reads another news story describing how tumultuous his tenure has been.
“Let me just tell you,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me at all. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
In fact, the term “tumultuous” means the House is listening to the will of the American people — its constitutional responsbility, Boehner added.
It wasn’t the first time the Ohio Republican painted U.S. voters as fed up with an unresponsive federal government.
“You know they said conservatives can never control the House again,” he said to scattered boos in the CPAC audience. “Well, they were wrong. They were dead wrong.”