Presidential Candidates Address CPAC 2016
By Deborah Lambert
National Harbor, MD – The 2016 CPAC audience, steeped in policy and activism sessions during their annual three-day confab at the Gaylord Hotel, also had a chance to see three of the four remaining presidential candidates, who dropped in to test their political cred on an audience tilted heavily in favor of millennials.
Judging from the romping, stomping crowd that cheered him on every chance they got, Sen. Ted Cruz, who eventually won this year’s CPAC presidential straw poll, proved once again his strong, unwavering bonafides among conservatives. The last minute speech cancellation by frontrunner Donald Trump also opened the door for Cruz to inject a little humor by noting that “either someone told him that Megyn Kelly was going to be here” or “he was told that conservatives were going to be here.”
The senator’s talk was filled with erudite references to the Constitution, along with mentions of what he would like to accomplish, including getting Congress to pass a balanced budget; eliminating Common Core; saying no to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, and yes to rescinding and replacing Obamacare.
While Sen. Cruz noted during his address that he was the only true conservative in this year’s presidential race, he ruled out any kind of “brokered convention” deal in order to deny a possible Trump nomination, but did allow that in order to help force Marco Rubio out of the race, he had opened ten more offices in Florida
When Ohio Gov. John Kasich stepped onto the stage at CPAC 2016, some in the audience couldn’t help thinking back to the candidate’s prediction that at some point, American voters would break away from the stressful 2016 roller coaster of a presidential campaign and focus on his words.
This may have been that moment.
There was a sense of calm in Gov. Kasich’s homey, heartland message that “The spirit of our country rests in our families,” and “Don’t wait for someone to fix the problems – fix them yourselves.” Ah yes, perhaps we and the other political animals at CPAC could all get some sleep that night.
And yet, while Kasich won re-election in Ohio by 30 points, his views about the reality of climate change, that Common Core should be continued, that non-violent criminals should get rehab instead of prison time and that undocumented immigrants without felony records should be allowed to get some sort of legal status would not necessarily sit well with the CPAC audience.
Which is why he may have stayed with the folksy vignettes rather than a detailed rundown of his policy statements.
When Fox News host Sean Hannity joined the governor for a Q & A after his talk, he quipped that “You’re the only one on stage that didn’t get a nickname from Donald Trump,” whereupon Kasich responded: “You will not beat him by smearing him. You will beat him by having a record.”
The nominating process “has to be done fairly,” Kasich said, adding that “As crazy as this year is, can you think of anything cooler than a brokered convention?”
Although Sen. Marco Rubio was recovering from the flu, he provided the audience with an inspiring rundown of the meaning of conservatism, noting that “in America, we’re higher on the food chain than the government,” and adding that “most problems don’t have a federal government solution, even those created by government.”
“Neither anger nor fear will solve our problems,” Rubio said. “Rather, conservative ‘principles, such as knowing “our rights come from God and not government,” are central.
To Rubio, the First Amendment is critically important, along with the Second, especially today, since it grants the “constitutional right to protect yourself and your family from terrorism.”
He also believes in returning power back to the states by “re-embracing true free enterprise.”
Indeed, one of the many strong points of conservatism that Rubio mentioned is that free enterprise is the best economic system in the world, because it makes poor people richer without making rich people poorer. And yet, the lingering confusion about the meaning of conservatism has led some people to believe that America became a great country by accident.
Sen. Rubio, along with Sen. Kasich, faces a severe test on March 15 in his home state, and Rubio advisors who previously predicted a two-man race between Trump and their candidate, have now conceded that this possibility no longer exists.
Meanwhile Donald Trump, who is running a populist insurgency and Senator Cruz, who is running an ideological insurgency as the anti-Trump, are battling the millions of dollars of establishment cash that is flooding the Florida airwaves. But late word has it that Marco Rubio, whose Puerto Rico win keeps him viable, may divide the anti-Trump vote in Florida. Stay tuned.