Haberdashers in D.C. are stocking up on bowties and there’s not a Ronald Reagan biography to be found in an airport bookstore anywhere. It can only mean one thing — CPAC is just around the corner. From every corner of the country, young conservatives are pouring in to the District for the 37th annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which kicks off tomorrow morning in D.C.’s posh Woodley Park neighborhood.
This year’s conference promises to be one of the most boisterous. Fired up on polls showing the Democratic party losing its grip on Congress and conservatives surging across the country, the CPAC of this year will not be the collective self-examination of what’s wrong with the GOP that last year’s was. This time around, attendees won’t be looking back. A year after Democrats took power in Washington, the agenda for this year’s CPAC shows a conservative movement ready for its comeback.As Christina reported this morning, many of the plenary sessions this year embrace the Tea Party movement, offering the conservative grassroots movement space on the stage with some of the establishment GOP’s brightest lights.
The embrace of the movement goes beyond the sessions, however. The keynote speaker this year is Glenn Beck, as close to a national spokesperson as the Tea Party has. Last year, Rush Limbaugh gave the final keynote, a speech focused on urging conservatives to hold the line on their values in the face of the Hope and Change carried into the political narrative by President Obama’s 2008 campaign.
Beck has also urged conservatives to stay true to their values. But he’s been much more willing to tell his followers to walk away from the Republican establishment if it won’t toe the conservative line than Limbaugh has. Where last year’s convention used Limbaugh to focus on the establishment GOP’s key strengths, the speech by Beck shifts the focus to the power of conservatism to exact change on all political levels, including the GOP.
The man who exemplifies that change, Marco Rubio, will also be on hand at this year’s CPAC. Rubio, who’s seems more and more likely to knock off Gov. Charlie Crist in the Florida GOP Senate primary, will give one of the first speeches of the event on Thursday morning. Crist was on last year’s CPAC presidential straw poll ballot (he earned less than 1% of the vote), but this year his name is nowhere to be seen. Rubio, however, is a star of the modern conservative movement — he’ll be introduced by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), a scion of the right and the man who’s early endorsement helped push Rubio into national prominence.
Other speakers from at this year’s event also represent the conservative pushback against the mainstream GOP. Confirmed speakers include Dick Armey, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Liz Cheney and Ron Paul. But there are plenty of speakers from the mainstream scheduled to speak as well, including former Bush administration Attorney General John Ashcroft, Newt Gingrich and George Will.
Many of the 2012 GOP presidential field will be on hand as well, with the notable exception of Sarah Palin, who declined an invitation to speak at the event for the second year in a row. Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Mike Pence, Rick Santorum and Gingrich will be there, though, giving political prognosticators something to write about other than Rubio.
Outside the hotel, the social scene will be 100% conservative as well. Politico published this list of CPAC parties, which include “Bowling With Mitt” and “Late Night With T-Paw.” The biggest event on the social calendar isn’t focused on a current GOP politician however. Politico reports that the “the climax of the week” will be “the sixth annual ‘Reaganpalooza,'” where attendees pack a Capitol Hill bar and “drink one for the Gipper.”
If that’s not entertaining enough, there are outlets for physical violence among the parties as well. Female guests at the CivicForumPAC party Friday night will get the chance to break open a pinata modeled after Nancy Pelosi, The Hill reports. Male guests at the party will be invited to take their best shot at the Harry Reid punching bag.