A recap of this weekend’s CPAC conference from former PD contributor Alaina

For those of you who have never been to CPAC, it is 3.5 days of Heaven for political junkies. From the time I walked into the Marriott Wardman Park on Wednesday afternoon to the time I left for the airport Sunday morning, I did not take a single step outside of the hotel. There are a continuous array of events happening at all times from cocktail receptions to banquets, speeches, panels, leadership seminars, book signings and much more. For entertainment, I’m excited to say that we got to hear Ray Stevens play and I strongly encourage you to go to iTunes right now, well, after you finish reading this post anyway, and download his We the People album… it’s hysterical as all of his albums are. Plus, you’ll never know who you might run in to… I forgot my name when I met Ann Coulter last year.

This year’s CPAC was full of controversy from the beginning. For the second year in a row, the ACU allowed GOProud (a self proclaimed gay conservative group) to attend CPAC. That didn’t sit well with some of the social conservatives and was boycotted by Conservative darlings such as Jim DeMint. As a result, the ACU had a tough time filling their speaking slots, which led to an ever shifting schedule for the main ballroom. In my opinion, that wasn’t such a bad thing. We got to hear from some newer faces such as John Thune and Connie Mack who had very interesting point of views.

Other than the boycott, the Paul-ites caused controversy on several occasions, which resulted in at least one being escorted from the ballroom. They called Dick Cheney a “war criminal” and “draft dodger”. They booed Donald Rumsfeld when he accepted the Defender of the Constitution Award, which, of course they believe should have been given to Ron Paul. Hopefully the ACU will learn a lesson next year and present the award in the morning when all the kiddos aren’t out of bed yet. They also yelled “you suck” at Orrin Hatch when he was asked a question about voting for TARP. Of course, they booed everyone else who stated an opinion that they disagreed with. Despite enjoying Ron and Rand Paul’s speeches (particularly Rand’s) most non-Paul-ites, including myself, are hoping that the ACU will reconsider the inviting them to speak in the future because of the behavior of the crowd that follows. However, I’m sure the money will win out and the ACU won’t forgo the admission fees for 800 or so attendees.

Another change from last year was the organization from candidates other than Paul. Mitt Romney had the second largest group, followed by Gary Johnson and Mitch Daniels. There were also a few people stumping for some write in candidate that was too irrelevant for anyone to remember… apparently they didn’t have enough buttons to go around.

A new event this year, and quite possibly my favorite of the weekend was the Friday morning mimosa reception with members of Congress. Pete Sessions introduced close to a dozen Freshman Congressmen. They were all normal, every day people. They were farmers, policemen and small business owners (only one was a lawyer) who have never ran for public office before and felt the need to do something to help take our country back. One Congressman (I don’t recall his name, but I think he is from PA) owned a GM dealership, which his father opened in 1954. In the Spring of 2009, he received a phone call from someone from the headquarters at GM and a lawyer. The man from GM told the now Congressman that he had to change his GM dealership to Chevrolet or Cadillac. The Congressman said the GM dealership had been in his family for 55 years, it was successful, he didn’t want to change and asked what his other options were. The man from GM told him that he could either change to Chevrolet or Cadillac or go to arbitration. The Congressman said he would go to arbitration. The man from GM and the lawyer laughed at him and said he couldn’t survive arbitration with his one lawyer against the US government. It was at that point that he decided enough was enough and he would run for Congress to try to make a difference.

After the 2008 election, while fighting a bout of post-election depression, I wrote a post entitled Are there any Mr. Smiths left in Washington? I can tell you for a fact that there are Mr. Smith’s and I met them. Not only are they in Washington, but they can win elections in very tough Democratic precincts. Rep Joe Walsh even said that he made a promise to his constituents that he will not except the Congressional health care plan until Obama-care is repealed and replaced with something comparable. Ladies and Gentlemen, there is still hope. These freshman came in with a mission, they’re standing together and are putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the ranking Republicans. I am in awe and inspired by these men.

As for the speeches, here’s my take:

Michelle Bachmann kicked off CPAC as the Key Note Speaker. Maybe I stayed out too late socializing with my new conservative friends the night before, but I don’t remember anything from her speech except that she was having a happy hour and there was a one drink limit.

As for Mitch McConnell, I don’t remember anything, but again, it was Thursday morning.

Newt Gingrich made a grand entrance to the Rocky theme and there wasn’t a seat left in the house. He probably covered the widest variety of topics with a few great one liners such as, “If you wanna kill jobs, you can. Democrats do it all the time.” He left the audience wishing they could forget about his first two marriages.

Rick Santorum was a bit of a bust… the audience was slim and wasn’t overly excited about his speech. He can continue to spend all the time he wants in Iowa and New Hampshire, but I don’t think it’s going to help.

Donald Trump was the shocker of the weekend. When they announced he was going to speak, everyone looked around in confusion wondering if we were still at a “Conservative” conference. He may be planning to run as a Republican, but no conservative would attend a fundraiser for Rahm Emmanuel’s mayoral campaign. But I digress. Trump was greeted to a mixture of cheers and boos (not just the Paul-ites). As I’m sure you saw on the news, he got a lot of boos for stating that Ron Paul would “never” get elected. I’m going to make a prediction here… Trump has no shot at being elected either – even if he ran as a Dem – but it was interesting to hear him speak nonetheless. Although, someone should really take notes on his proposed approach to OPEC.

Rand Paul was interesting. He made some fantastic points about the EPA and, of course, was greeted with a very warm reception and a packed audience of Paul-ites.

It’s always an honor to hear Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld speak. Rumsfeld made the point that he’s been serving this country for almost one third of it’s existence. That’s pretty unbelievable.

Paul Ryan was as great at CPAC as he was in his rebuttal to the State of the Union and, of course, focused on spending.

Mitt Romney packed the house and gave a speech that generated seemly constant cheers and applause. He made one Obama joke, something to the effect of “When Obama was asked about the unemployment rate, he said, ‘It could be worse’. It could be worse? He might as well say ‘Let them eat cake’. No, that’s not what he’d say. He’d say, ‘Let them eat organic cake’.” Personally, I don’t like Romney as a Presidential candidate, so maybe I’m a little biased in my analysis, but I had the same problem with his speech this year that I did last year. He spent his entire speech bashing Obama while speaking to a room full of Conservatives. He’s preaching to the choir. As someone who we all know will run for President again, I wanted to hear something of substance. What will be do differently? But, he only gave us jokes and statements about how bad Obama’s policies are. Yep… got it… totally agree… that’s why I’m attending a 3 day Conservative conference.

I dare say Tim Pawlenty received more standing ovations that Romney. Last year, Pawlenty was my guy going into CPAC last year, until I heard him speak. He literally put people to sleep. Maybe it had something to do with being the first speaker of the day? In any case, this year was the exact opposite. He had the crowd wrapped around his little finger. Pawlenty started with a couple jokes about Obama, such as “Obama may be the one person who deserves a Nobel Peace Prize less than Al Gore.” He made several great points about what he would do differently, including one proposal that Congress should be required to do their taxes themselves without accounts so they understand the complexity of our tax code.

Ron Paul was loud and predictable. That said, I’m 100% behind his idea to audit the Fed.

Rick Perry… well, as a Texan, I’m not a fan. Besides, I have a predisposed bias to not like Aggies. Hook’em Horns!

Herman Cain was one of my top two of the weekend. I’d heard his name on PD, but didn’t actually no who he was. I got to meet him in the hotel bar on Wednesday and take a picture with him. He really worked the crowd and many people left the ballroom room thinking he just might be a serious contender for 2012.

Mitch Daniels spoke at the Ronald Reagan Banquet Friday night. He called debt the ‘new red menace.’ That certainly got a lot of attention and earned him the headline spot on Drudge Report.

Haley Barbour had a tremendous amount of great content in his speech, but the delivery was so boring. He was the T-Paw of CPAC 2011.

John Bolton was, well John Bolton. He made a fantastic speech about foreign policy and I’m fully supportive of him Secretary of State, but no chance for President.

Allen West rocked it. He was the closing speaker and by far the best of the weekend. I’m pretty sure he averaged a standing ovation every 5 seconds.

Other honorable mentions include John Thune, Connie Mack, Pat Toomey and Wayne LaPierre.

Andrew Brietbart wins the award for most entertaining speech on how to frustrate liberals and Steven Crowder wins the award for best EMCEE for his impression of Keith Olbermann.