CPAC: We Will Never Forget the Passion, the Energy, or the Open Bar

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Morning Jolt of the week . . . 

CPAC: We Will Never Forget the Passion, the Energy, or the Open Bar

In case you missed them, here are the interviews I and other NR staffers conducted at CPAC with…

Texas governor Rick Perry

Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey

Representative Tom Price

Ambassador John Bolton

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson

Former senator and actor Fred Thompson

Former RNC chairman and Senate candidate Ed Gillespie

Former presidential candidate and senator Rick Santorum

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Former representative Allen West

European Parliament member Daniel Hannan

Faith and Freedom Coalition chairman Ralph Reed

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO and former California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina

Former governor of Maryland Bob Ehrlich

Mackinac Center for Public Policy director of labor policy Vinnie Vernuccio

ISI president Chris Long

Concerned Veterans for America CEO and Army captain Pete Hegseth

Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer

Young Americans for Liberty executive director Jeff Frazee

Concerned Veterans of America policy analyst and activists Amber Barno and Jane Horton

Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist

AEI economic-policy analyst Abby McCloskey

Tennessee Senate candidate Brenda Lenard

Investor’s Business Daily columnist Andrew Malcolm

AEI education research fellow Mike McShane

Former NR publisher Ed Capano

ACU chairman Al Cardenas

In addition, there was constant coverage in the Corner from Andrew Johnson, Eliana Johnson, Patrick Brennan, Betsy Woodruff, Katherine Connell, Tim Cavanaugh, and Kathryn Lopez. As you can imagine, keeping all of these people coming and going at the right times in a crowded convention hall was a bit like being an air-traffic controller at O’Hare or Hartsfield, and our Amy Mitchell managed to avoid any midair collisions, and Brian Jodice turned a tiny convention floor space into a professional video workspace. These people rock. There are many fine institutions out there, and a lot of them offered good coverage of CPAC, but you’ll understand my biased assessment that we covered the conference better than anyone.

(Betsy’s leaving us to join the Washington Examiner, and we wish her well. I wish all of our recent departures from NR well, although I could do without the predictable tone in the coverage of those departures from other publications:

“Man, National Review doesn’t have anybody left in Washington anymore, do they?”

Ahem.

“I mean, the NR cupboard is just bare in terms of talent!”

Ahem.

“A shame, that place was once so good, and now they don’t even have anybody who can string two sentences together!”

“I’m standing right here!”)

Rand Paul won the straw poll, for whatever that’s worth — not quite a shock, and a small feather in his cap, but not one that will have much impact when the 2016 race gets rolling in earnest. (Pop quiz: Who won last year? Turns out . . . it was Rand Paul.) His “Stand With Rand” fans were the most visible and well-organized of the conference, but again, this sample is hardly representative of the GOP presidential-primary electorate as a whole, and most of the other expected or possible contenders — Christie, Rubio, Cruz, Perry, Jindal, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker — didn’t seem to have much of an organized presence working attendees to build up the vote in the straw poll.

This was the scene off-camera when I interviewed Rick Perry — he was like the Pied Piper, leading a small army of staff, security guys, fans, autograph-seekers, groupies, and gawkers:

We know there’s more to Rick Perry than a momentary brain fart upon a debate stage, and I wonder if a significant number of conservatives feel like he deserves a second chance. Texas’s economy continues to rock and roll, and whatever you think of Perry personally, the Texas approach to taxation, regulation, and economic development is more or less what conservatives yearn to see enacted nationally.

Ace:

Perry Version 2014 seems to be fighting the ghost of Perry Version 2012. He’s much more energetic in this speech than he was in any of the debates. (But of course people tend to be more energetic before friendly crowds.) One can speculate about his reasons for the nerd-cool choice in spectacles.

Another thing he’s doing is projecting optimism, hope, and buoyancy, which is of course the advice given to practically any candidate. He also takes time to praise his fellow Republican governors, including, notably, Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal, both of whom are considering a run for the nomination themselves. So he gets some Nice Guy/Good Guy points. (Notably absent from his list of successful Republican governors: Chris Christie.)

As most readers know, I jumped on the Perry train big-time in 2012, seeing him — on paper — as not only the best candidate among the crowded (and uninspiring) 2012 field, but just a good candidate in any cycle. His economic portfolio was/is solid — Barack Obama hasn’t presided over the creation of many jobs in America, but Rick Perry can account for nearly half (48%) of those jobs that Obama wishes to take credit for. (Oh, and Perry’s jobs were actually created, not “saved or created or funded” or which “positively impacted” people.)

Plus, you know, he’s pretty enthusiastic about hanging around with a cardboard cutout of William F. Buckley: