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CPAC 2009

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CPAC 2009: Romney Picked as 2012 GOP Front-Runner in Straw Poll

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Conservative activists on Saturday named former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney the winner of a poll for best 2012 GOP presidential candidate.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won 20 percent of the vote in straw poll for presidential favorites.

The poll marked the third consecutive year Romney came out on top.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal placed second in the annual poll, conducted at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Romney received 20 percent of the vote and Jindal got 14 percent.

Close behind were Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who each received 13 percent of the vote.

The results were culled over two days from 1,757 of the party activists who came to Washington for the annual conference and filled out ballots on Thursday and Friday. Nearly 60 percent of the straw poll participants were between the ages of 18 and 25. More than half of the conference attendees this year were college students.

The choices in the poll were: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist; former House speaker Newt Gingrich; former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; Jindal; Paul; Palin; Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty; Romney; South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, and "Undecided." There was also space on the ballot for a write-in candidate.

The results could go a long way in shoring up a presidential hopeful's conservative resume, as was the case with Romney when he won the straw poll in 2007 for 2008.

The eventual Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, finished fifth in the 2007 vote, and lost to Romney in 2008 as conservatives at the conference expressed frustration that the Senate maverick was close to cinching up the nomination.

In criticizing Obama and House Democrats in a speech Friday, Romney -- often interrupted by standing ovations -- made clear that he intends to remain a player in Republican politics as he eyes a potential presidential bid in 2012.

CPAC attendees also were able to vote on their approval of President Obama and Republicans in Congress.

Only 4 percent said they approve of the job Obama is doing.

CPAC ended Saturday with radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh delivering the keynote address.

Limbaugh called on conservatives to take the country back.

"I want to tell you who conservatives are. We conservatives have not done a good enough job of just laying out basically who we are because we make the mistake of assuming that people know," he said.

"We love people. When we look out over the United States of America, when we're anywhere, when we see a group of people such as this or anywhere, we see Americans."

In order to take the country back, Limbaugh said, "All we need is to nominate the right candidate. It's no more complicated than that."

Limbaugh praised Obama as one of the most gifted politicans he has seen, but said, "It just breaks my heart that he does not use these extraordinary talents and gifts to motivate and inspire the American people to be the best they can be. He's doing just the opposite."

Limbaugh accused Obama of wanting people to be in fear instead of motivating the country.

In the absence of a clear GOP leader, a political ad airing Friday put out by supporters of Obama implies the conservative radio host has himself become the de facto head of the Republican Party.

The ad argues that the Republican leadership in Congress is following Limbaugh's lead in opposing the Obama administration's $787 billion stimulus package.

"So who are Republican leaders listening to?," the announcer asks before the 30-second ad cuts abruptly to footage of Limbaugh saying, "I want him [Obama] to fail."

It was paid for by Americans United for Change and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union, two groups that supported Obama during the election and are advocating for his agenda.

In response to the ad, the Republican National Committee said, "The Democrats are running a permanent campaign rather than doing the bipartisan work of governing." Read about the new ad

"These ads are part of the Democrats' larger strategy to do something, anything, to try to take the focus off their massive spending binge," RNC spokesman Alex Conant said. Video Watch: Who will lead the GOP?

Meanwhile, throughout the conference, other Republican leaders and rising stars took turns at the podium.

Pawlenty told the conference audience Saturday that Republicans must do a better job of reaching out to working-class voters, a group he said agrees with the GOP on most issues, from gun rights to health care to education.

The problem, Pawlenty said, is that lower and middle income voters -- a group he terms "Sam's Club voters" -- don't believe Republicans "are for the working person."

He said the party must stress its commitment to job creation and market itself "with a feel and concern and tone and an understanding of the importance and the challenges of the working class of this country.

"And it doesn't mean we have to sacrifice our principles to do it," Pawlenty said.

Like most of the Republicans who have addressed the annual gathering of conservatives this week, Pawlenty characterized the White House economy recovery package as a "sprawling spending buffet."

The governor bemoaned the president's budget plan, unveiled earlier this week, which predicted a $1.75 trillion deficit for the upcoming fiscal year.

"A day or two later the Democrats convened a fiscal responsibility summit," he said. "What's next? Are they going to have Rod Blagojevich convene an ethics summit?"

Pawlenty and his wife Mary also spoke Friday night to a closed-door reception for "Rebuild the Party," a Web-based grassroots initiative to modernize the party.
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On Friday, Romney and Gingrich packed the ballroom.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul also drew a big crowd and lots of applause. Paul said the conservative movement has struggled to define what it means to be a conservative.

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Jonathan Krohn: 13-Year-Old Conservative Wunderkind Wows CPAC, Joe The Plumber

The future of the conservative movement presented himself on Friday, and he was 13.

Jonathan Krohn, the author of "Define Conservatism" and political prodigy voted "Atlanta's Most Talented Child" in 2006, was the talk of the Conservative Political Action Conference for a brief portion of the afternoon session.

His two-minute address on "Conservative Victories Across the Nation" covered the lost principles of the Republican Party, which he called the "shell" to conservatism's "filling." It was filled with the type of rhetorical flow and emotional pitch one would expect from a seasoned hand. Except, Korn is more than four years away from being able to vote.

Certainly, it was enough to win him a whole host of plaudits, from his co-panelists to the big-name attendees. "Watch out David Keene," said Millie Hallow, the moderator of the panel, in reference to the conservative luminary who heads CPAC.

"He came up to me, grabbed my hand, and shook it," said Joe the Plumber. "If I didn't know any better I would say he was 30 years old. He definitely has a great confidence about him. I enjoyed talking with him.... He's definitely sharp."

How, exactly, a 13-year-old (Krohn turns 14 on Sunday) got to this place is story of an intense, downright obsessive, interest in politics. Sitting at a table and signing copies his books -- his red tie flopping on top of the white tablecloth, a flag pin pinched to his sports coat -- he assigns credit for his fast ascension to none other than Bill Bennett.

"I got into politics when I was eight years old. Six years now. And I got involved because I started listening to talk radio. It goes back to one event. The Democrats filibustered something in the Senate when I was eight years old. I don't remember what it was on and I didn't honestly care when I was eight years old. I cared about the history and the Senate rules," he told the Huffington Post. "I listened to Bill Bennett and tons of other talk show hosts who talked about that and other policies and started branching out and caring about other issues in regards to politics. Bill Bennett really became an idol for me. I listened to him every morning from 6 to 9 for, oh, years. And I started learning more and started to be able to think on my own, understanding politics on my own. I started to be able to use my mind to engage in political conversations under the conservative banner."

The topic on his mind - or at least mine - is how the Republican Party can resurrect itself. "Conservatism, conservatism, conservatism..." he replies. Whether these are talking points, I'm not sure. Either way, he has them down. "A lot of people say to me, 'oh, you're a Republican.' And I say, 'No, I'm a conservative.' I'm a Republican when I support candidates. When I talk about the party I'm affiliated with I'm a Republican. But when it comes to what I am, I'm a conservative."

It was, Krohn says, an abandonment of philosophy that brought the GOP to its current state; on issues from immigration reform to bailouts. "I think they started losing it because the American people saw the American party wasn't really based on conservatism," he says.

And it will only be when Republicans return to their core conservative beliefs that electoral power will be reassumed. It's an idea the majority of CPAC participants ardently believe. But he's the only 13-year-old waxing philosophically about them.

As for his choices for president, Krohn talks, once more, like a seasoned vet. "I would love to see Newt Gingrich," he said. "But it's impossible to see him up there. I don't see him doing it. I would love Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney as well."

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Cornyn Preaches Moderation, Then DeMint Calls Obama "World's Best Salesman Of Socialism"
CPAC Day 2
February 27, 2009

Speaking before a red-meat conservative audience in Washington D.C., National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Cornyn did something a bit rare, he pleaded for political moderation in the party's efforts to regain control of the Senate.

"I would rather have a Republican who votes with me 80 percent of the time than a liberal Democrat who would vote with me 0 percent of the time," said the Texas Republican. "I understand that occasionally we get frustrated by the way that some of my colleagues vote, I do too. But a circular firing squad is no solution to the problems our party faces right now."

It was one of the few times that the audience had been asked to put aside their ideological orthodoxy in exchange for electoral leverage. Indeed, the vast majority of speakers at the Conservative Political Action Conference had enthusiastically rejected the notion that the Republican Party needed a re-thinking of its philosophical pillars. What was needed, they offered, was firmer, more passionate and aggressive opposition to the Democratic powers that be. As if on cue, the very next speaker to address the crowd, Sen. Jim DeMint, laced into congressional leadership -- accusing it of a lack of willingness to say the word "freedom" -- and the president himself, calling Barack Obama "the world's best salesman of socialism."

Cornyn, for sure, didn't tone down the sharp critiques of his political opposition. But his was a numbers game. "Having 41 [Republican Senators] means that we have leverage to block bad legislation or more importantly to shape it. And to bring Democrats to the negotiating table," he said. "Our mission is clear: we must win most republican seats. We must build a new majority."

As for the 2010 elections -- which seem, at this moment, to offer Democrats a good chance to expand their majority -- Cornyn called the landscape "promising."

"We have to hold," he said, open seats in Ohio, Missouri and Florida. While there was a chance for the GOP to pick up seats in New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Arkansas, Colorado, Nevada, "and yes, even California."

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CPAC Audience Laughing and Clapping at John Bolton’s  joke about Terrorists Nuking Obama’s Home City.

CPAC 2009: Obama's a Communist and a Foreigner [RightWingWatch.org]

Ann Coulter Tossing out Red Meat at CPAC 2009
Part 1

Part 2

Rush Limbaugh Does his Radio Schtick at CPAC 2009

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