The Conservative Political Action Conference, hosted by the American Conservative Union, is an annual gathering where thousands of Republicans from the three legs of Reagan’s stool—Conservatives, moderates and Libertarians gather to hear and be inspired by “Conservatives Giants.” This year did not disappoint, as the hallways were overflowing with millennials and young activists who were filled with excitement and enthusiasm to hear from current and future leaders of the GOP and get involved in the electoral process. CPAC is chock-full of engaging panels, campaign trainings, interviews with leading conservative personalities on radio row, entertaining dinners, selfies with political celebrities and after parties that are almost as grand as the RNC.
Within 72 hours, the conference attendees heard from GOP powerhouses such as Carly Fiorina, America’s surgeon Dr. Ben Carson, former Governor Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Scott Walker, former Governor Rick Perry, Sen. Ted Cruz, Fox News Host Sean Hannity, Sen Rand Paul, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump, and many others. Most of these individuals are speaking to the party faithful to build support for the 2016 Republican nomination to become the 45th President of the United States of America. More importantly, CPACers anxiously anticipate the moment they can cast their vote in the CPAC Straw Poll for the candidate who has their vote—and a sign of momentum with the grassroots—this early on.
Over the past nine years, Romney won four times, Ron Paul once, and his proactive liberty leaning, risk-adverse son, Sen. Rand Paul won this year, with 25.7% of the vote. A shocker to many who thought that maybe Bush, Rubio, or Walker would come out on top. Though the straw poll is the highlight of the conference, it is not always determinative of who will win the nomination. If anything, the losers are more aware of the work ahead of them to solidify and unite the conservative base.
Rand Paul is the Senator from Kentucky and he is a leading force in the GOP today—taking the conservative message to not always friendly audiences and for bipartisan criminal justice reform. His CPAC speech centered around a strong national defense, repealing Obamacare, cutting taxes, better education and of course, blasting his potential opponent, Hillary Clinton. Sen. Paul’s vision and determination to reach, talk to, and visit nontraditional Republican audiences could be a winning factor for his campaign.
Carly Fiorina, came out to “Happy” by Pharrell, which was very fitting as she was quite happy to talk about her qualifications while explaining why Hillary Clinton shouldn't take the nation's top seat. Fiorina pointed to Benghazi, questioned her leadership and reminded her that flying across the world is not an actual achievement. She even went as far as to ask Clinton to name an accomplishment from her years in politics.
In Carly Fiorina, conservatives find a story many of us can relate to or hope to relate to one day. She started at the very bottom of an organization as a secretary and with hard work and ingenuity became CEO of HP, the world’s largest technology company. She is a cancer survivor. Fiorina’s speech was weaved her theme of “potential,: throughout. She stated, “Every life has potential.” Her experience in the small business sector is the stuff political legends are made of.
Meanwhile, Jeb Bush looked very presidential as he was interviewed live by Sean Hannity, as opposed to doing a 15-minute speech at the podium. Bush is former Governor of Florida, son of President George H.W. Bush, brother to President George W. Bush, and father to newly elected Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush. However, he wants to be looked at as his own man and not compared to his mom, dad, or father.
Gov. Bush hammered on things like national defense, growing the economy, revamping tax policies and education system, and inspiring people to share the conservative message. He bravely answered the tough questions about Common Core and immigration—two issues that are said to separate him from gaining the conservative vote. Did you know Gov. Bush was the first Governor to implement a voucher program? Bush’s vision is one of a commonsense approach to opportunity and equality in American systems. His executive experience will be invaluable if he is elected president.
I have not attached myself to a candidate; I will support the candidate who has an agenda that will work for and represent all Americans, especially one who will put urban America to work. However, I will encourage my liberal friends to consider what we're offering here. I firmly believe that the GOP is the grand old party of opportunity. While this recap is not all encompassing all the presidential contenders at CPAC, it is a glimpse of the diversity on our presidential bench.
As we look to reform immigration, our education system, our tax code, healthcare system, and everyday life for middle class and poor Americans– don't forget to look on this side, you’ll be glad you did.