Wecome to a Purge-Free CPAC!

by Jim Geraghty

The Thursday Morning Jolt looks at the accelerating era of Obama lame-duck-hood, and of course, a preview of CPAC, which begins today:

Welcome to CPAC. Try Not to Catch the Annual Plague-like Cold.

Are you ready for the Conservative Political Action Conference for 2014? Tomorrow, Kathryn Jean Lopez and I will be at CPAC, conducting quick video interviews with the biggest movers and shakers at the conference. Look for them here in the Corner, starting tomorrow morning and all the way through Saturday.

Three perennial CPAC stories we ought to retire:

“Look, it’s an offensive or racist tchotchke from a vendor!” All it takes is one bumper sticker and that becomes the photo sent out over the wires. MSNBC will get a month’s worth of programming out of it.

“Look, this faction of the party or movement is being driven out!” Here’s the Daily Beast’s early entry into the genre; notice the glaring contradiction that undermines that “increasingly fractured conservative movement” reference she begins with:

On the list is Jenny Beth Martin, head of the Tea Party Patriots. Off the list is House Speaker John Boehner, the highest-ranking Republican in Washington who has run afoul of the far right flank of the GOP again and again over the last year.

On the list is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the embattled 2016 hopeful who has suddenly gained favor with the right after two months of abuse from the mainstream media over his bridge scandal. Off the list are Mitt Romney and John McCain, Christie’s fellow “pragmatists,” “moderates” or “RINOs,” and former White House aspirants who no longer need to try to convince activists they’re all on the same team.

So those torch-carrying fundamentalist arch-conservatives managed to drive Romney and McCain from the invite list, but not Christie. Oh, by the way, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s among the speakers.

Paul Ryan’s speaking; wasn’t he on the squish list not long ago for the budget deal and sounding cheery about immigration reform? Sen. Pat Toomey’s speaking; I guess his gun deal with Joe Manchin isn’t such a deal-breaker. Sen. Marco Rubio’s speaking; wasn’t he supposed to get driven out over the Gang of Eight deal? Ed Gillespie, who’s running for Senate here in Virginia, is speaking; isn’t he Mr. GOP Establishment? Finally, Mike Huckabee’s speaking, and he’s Mr. Big-Government Conservatism. Some purge this turned out to be!

“Look, So-and-so won the straw poll!” Okay, the straw poll winner might be intriguing. If somebody like, say, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker wins, it will be a wake-up call for the other big names. But this is about as unrepresentative a sample of the GOP primary electorate as you can find; the 11,000 or so straw-poll participants are the die-hards of the die-hards, the most dedicated, most passionate, most up-to-date folks. But Republican primary electorates include a lot of folks who aren’t like that, even in states with closed primaries. They’re Republicans, not necessarily conservative activists, and what appeals to one group isn’t guaranteed to appeal to the other. Remember, while McCain and Romney were greeted reasonably warmly at the CPACs of 2008 and 2012, they were never classic CPAC crowd-pleasers. Yet they both won their respective nominations.

Finally, take note of the intriguing, little-noticed sponsor:

The Conservative Political Action Conference has never been known for attracting Hollywood (unless you count Kirk Cameron, Stephen Baldwin or the Duggars), but the Motion Picture Association of America will be there this year — at least in spirit. The movie studios’ biggest lobbying group is once again sponsoring the conservative confab, which kicks off Thursday just outside of D.C.

The MPAA won’t really talk about the sponsorship, though the group’s logo adorns the CPAC website.

“We don’t comment on political contributions,” an MPAA spokesman told Whispers.

Cue the cries of “CPAC has sold out to Hollywood!”