The 2011 CPAC Experience: 68 Pictures (Part 2 of 2)


Fri: Day 2 Of CPAC

Ah, day 2…when the early stages of exhaustion begin to set in. So, what do you do when you’re stressed? Why you squeeze an Obama, Pelosi, or Biden stress ball, of course.

Obama, Pelosi, or Biden stress ball

I’m declaring those to be the coolest pieces of swag from the conference, even though, for reasons I still don’t fully comprehend, I could never find the Weekly Standard booth where they were supposed to have been giving them away.

That morning, I was happy to be one of about 15 media members who were allowed into a private session with Tim Pawlenty.

John Hawkins and Tim Pawlenty
John Hawkins and Tim Pawlenty.

The session ran about 45 minutes and my goal, while I was in the room with him, was to evaluate whether he has what it takes to win the presidency. Here are my thoughts on Pawlenty: He’s a competent, conservative governor of a key state. He was a supporter of global warming alarmism, which was a big negative, but he’s now flat out saying that he’s changed his mind about that. I can respect that. Pawlenty is not a particularly charismatic guy, which is his biggest weakness. However, I was very impressed with the breadth and depth of his answers, particularly on foreign policy where you might expect a governor to be a little weak at this point in the cycle. Could Tpaw be a legit contender despite the lack of charisma? Sure. How charismatic were Nixon, Carter, Bush 1 or Bush 2? As often as not, Presidents don’t have raw charisma. The key for Tpaw is to find a way to break out of the pack and catch people’s interest. So far, he hasn’t found the sort of hook he’ll need to make people take a good long look at him — but, it’s still very early.

David Horowitz dropped by the bloggers’ lounge and it was great to meet him in person.

David Horowitz and Kristina Ribali
David Horowitz and Kristinna Ribali.

Hawt CPAC Rumor #4: Sarah Palin was in the building (False: It was a Sarah Palin impersonator roaming the halls.)

Sarah Palin impersonator

The funny thing about the Palin impersonator was that even after people figured out she wasn’t the real thing, she was still drawing a huge crowd.

On Friday, Andrew Ian Dodge announced at CPAC that he is going to challenge Olympia Snowe in the 2012 primary (You can read the exclusive interview with Dodge that was released Friday, on Right Wing News, right here)

Kevin McKeever and Andrew Ian Dodge
Kevin McKeever and Andrew Ian Dodge

So, you remember, Jimmy McMillan from “The Rent’s Too Damn High Party?” You know, the Internet sensation? Well, he was at CPAC, too. He’s running for President as a Republican — and his weirdly funny yelling drew a crowd. Eventually, he ended up in the bloggers’ lounge,

Jimmy McMillan

Basically, he just worked “The rent’s too damn high” into every answer until some genius asked him, “So, how high should the rent be?” He choked on that for a moment or two and then plodded on. Apparently no one had ever asked him that question before.

You may also remember Dale Peterson, who put the Alabama Agriculture Commissioner race on the map with one of the most memorable ads of the cycle. Sadly, he came in third place. So naturally, he’s running for President…wait, what? In any case, I found him chatting with Dina Fraioli and grabbed a pic,

Dale Peterson and Dina Fraioli

George Allen also came by bloggers’ row and I ended up being a prop in his talk about union intimidation (Hat tip for the video to Marathon Pundit).

Here are a few more pictures from that afternoon.

Lee Doren and Mary Katharine Ham
Lee Doren and Mary Katharine Ham.

April Gregory and Tricia Grannis
April Gregory and Tricia Grannis

Jim Hoft and Brooklyn Roberts
Jim Hoft and Brooklyn Roberts

kristen Hawley, Teri Christoph, Ashley Sewell
Kristen Hawley, Teri Christoph, and Ashley Sewell

Susannah Fleetwood and Amy Miller
Susannah Fleetwood and Amy Miller

After the day’s festivities ended, next up was a meet and greet with Haley Barbour. It was much less formal than the event with Tim Pawlenty. Basically, there was an open bar and Barbour wandered around and chatted with everyone.

Barbour would also be an intriguing candidate for the presidency. He’s conservative, he’s definitely qualified to do the job, and he did a great job during Katrina, but the Left would try to pin the racist label on him. If he could beat that rap, he’d have a genuine shot to be the nominee.

Here are some shots from “Barbour’s Bourbon with Bloggers.”

Sarah Nitta and Mary Katharine Ham
Sarah Nitta and Mary Katharine Ham

John Hawkins and Haley Barbour
John Hawkins and Haley Barbour

Lori Ziganto, Steven Kruiser, Jenn Q. Public
Lori Ziganto, Stephen Kruiser, Jenn Q. Public

After the Barbour event, I had a little time to kill and I ran into a few friends roaming the halls,

Stephen Gutowski, Liz Mair, Caleb Howe
Stephen Gutowski, Liz Mair, Caleb Howe

John Hawkins and Angela Lash
John Hawkins and Angela Lash

 Orit Sklar and Ruth Malhotra
Orit Sklar and Ruth Malhotra

Next up was Vice and Victory’s InovateCRNC party. It started off as a mixture of bloggers and college students but eventually, by design, became an all college student party.

Mike Adams and Ali Akbar
Mike Adams and Vice and Victory’s Ali Akbar.

Bonus Shot

Philip Klein, Susannah Fleetwood, Tommy Christopher
Philip Klein, Susannah Fleetwood
Tommy Christopher

After that, a number of us ended up once again gravitating towards GOProud’s suite where I took these snaps,

Kathlen McKinley and Jenny Erikson
Kathleen McKinley and Jenny Erikson

Jim Pinkerton, Elizabeth Pinkerton, Sean Hackbarth Jimmy Pinkerton, Elizabeth Pinkerton, and Sean Hackbarth.

For the record: Jim Pinkerton is every bit as gigantic as he looks in that picture. Seriously, he could be like, “Pinkerton smash! Rarrr!” and people would run from the guy. But actually, he really bent over backwards to be polite to people. His wife was very nice as well. I had actually introduced myself to her about 10 minutes before he got there because I kept running into her at events and I was wondering who she was. She did give her name, but I never put 2 and 2 together and realized who her husband was until he showed up.

Incidentally, after I left the suite, I was talking to a friend — in the bar shockingly — and that person said, “This is the third night in a row there have been bloggers at GOProud’s suite. Two years ago nobody was even talking about this, now there’s a gay party going on every night. How did CPAC go gay so fast?” That’s sort of a funny way to put it. Of course, it could have been worse. It beats calling their parties “Republican gay bashes” which I heard used a couple of times until people realized how it sounded. Yes, it’s all fun and games until the phrase ends up at the AOL/Huffington Post and a bunch of bloggers going to get drinks end up being portrayed as brick wielding psychopaths.

Let me also add that before CPAC, I made it known that I didn’t agree with the groups boycotting CPAC over GOProud. Some of the groups that don’t like GOProud did attend, as you can see from this poster from TFP Student Action that was up at a booth in the exhibit hall,

No to GOProud at CPAC

That being said, there was an article in the Metro Weekly that I heard about, but didn’t read in full until last night, that featured GOProud saying some ill advised things that they have already, at least in part, apologized for. That was appropriate and honestly, I think it would have been wise for them to go further in their apology.

Now, I’m not going to refight the whole battle over whether GOProud should be welcomed into the conservative movement, etc., etc., but there are two things worth noting.

GOProud isn’t any sort of Trojan horse organization or some sort of sneaky attempt to subvert the movement from within. They’re conservative and they’re gay and since that’s the case, it shouldn’t shock anyone that they’re in favor of gay marriage. People tend to promote, vote, and push what they think their interests are, even if it creates inconsistencies with the rest of their beliefs. Personally, I believe gay marriage is incompatible with Christianity and would be terrible for the country. If the guys from GOProud disagree with that and agree with me almost everywhere else, then we still probably have more in common than the Libertarians who were voting for Ron Paul in the CPAC straw poll.

Let me also add, that either by accident or design, GOProud had a brilliant media strategy this year. Basically, all they did was ask a few people in the media to come and hang out with them at their party and in their suite. They provided entertainment and alcohol, they did it at a time when people were going to be looking for things to do, and they didn’t try to bend anyone’s ear about anything. Could any other organization at CPAC have done the same thing? Sure. Some of them did to a certain extent. Renee Ellmers and Herman Cain sponsored the Blogbash. Vice and Victory invited bloggers to come have free booze and pizza. GOProud just did it on a larger scale and it paid off for them.

Anyway, after a while, someone alerted Sean Hackbarth that the guys from Red Eye were across the street. So, some of us went over. By this point, unfortunately, I was really, really dragging. On the upside, I did finally get to meet Duchess Rebecca, who’s pictured here with the always charming Brittany Cohan.

Duchess Rebecca, Brittany Cohan

On the other hand, I was sitting at the same table as Greg Gutfeld, Bill Schulz, and Andy Levy (S.E. Cupp was a table over) and I was too tired to try to weasel my way into the periphery of their conversation and meet them (Worth nothing: They sound about the same way in real life as they do on the show, which is slightly freaky). When I realized I had been sitting there silently at the end of the table for five minutes with my jaw resting on my hand, while I tried not to nod off, I said to hell with it and went to bed.

Sat: Day 3 Of CPAC

It was the last day of CPAC and although the event had been a blast, you could tell everyone was starting to wear down. Moreover, unlike the other days, there really wasn’t much planned for the day.

So, after snapping this shot of Fingers Malloy and Sarah Desprat

Fingers Malloy and Sarah Desprat

…I headed out to a seminar that was designed to explain how to be a columnist. Admittedly, I’m already a columnist, but it never hurts to pick up a few tips and tricks. Intriguingly, there was an overflow crowd. So apparently, there are legions of college kids who want to become columnists. My favorite piece of advice that was given had to be from Fred Barnes who noted, with utter disdain, that attempting to use blogging as a springboard to becoming a columnist is a terrible idea. Incidentally, if you’re wondering what their advice was, you can boil it all down to, “Be a journalist for 20 years and then switch over to writing columns.” Good luck with that strategy in a world where the entire newspaper industry is collapsing at breakneck speed.

Shortly after I headed out of that seminar, I ran into my pal Sarah Durand and we spent 20 minutes working on a super secret project of mystery we had been planning to discuss in person for the first time at CPAC. It went well.

John Hawkins and Sarah Durand

After that, I got a few moments with Andrew Breitbart in the bloggers’ lounge,

Andrew Breitbart, John Hawkins, Jim Hoft
Andrew Breitbart, John Hawkins, Jim Hoft

Once the picture was done, I asked Breitbart what he’d do to make it in the business if he weren’t famous and was starting from scratch today. He told me that he thought a lot of people were a little too impatient and he noted that he had worked on the Drudge Report for five years, without pay, before he started to get anywhere. He basically said if you do good work and give it time, it’ll pay off in the end.

Next up, my buddy Elizabeth Terrell, who wasn’t attending CPAC, met me at the hotel so we could go out to lunch.

John Hawkins and Elizabeth Terrell

After that, I headed back to the Bloggers’ Lounge. Here are a couple of afternoon pics I took as things wound down.

Susannah Fleetwood, Ed Morissey
Susannah Fleetwood, Ed Morrissey

Tabitha Hale, Tammy Bruce
Tabitha Hale, Tammy Bruce

As we neared the end of the day, Ann Coulter hit the stage and did what she does better than anyone else in politics: Delivered funny, biting one liners. (You can see her full speech here)

Who’s your least favorite Democrat?” | A: “It’s like asking my least favorite disease.

We have a path to citizenship. It’s called legal immigration.

Obama should look into being President of Egypt. Nobody would complain about him being a Muslim then.

Liberals want religion destroyed and family destroyed because then you have loyalty directly to the state.

If we don’t run Chris Christie, Romney will be the nominee and we will lose.

Every time I see Obama, he’s on a golf course. It’s like he’s trying to get his handicap below his approval rating.

Finally, as CPAC had almost finished, Allen West hit Bloggers’ Row BEFORE his keynote speech. He got the political rock star’s welcome that he deserves:

Allen West

While West was heading to the stage, they announced the results of the CPAC straw poll and….Ron Paul won again. Joy! Some people think the Paulites cheat to win. Honestly, I doubt it.

Let me explain why with a little story. One of the people on bloggers’ row was a diehard Ron Paul supporter and she seemed slightly puzzled by my assertion that he couldn’t win the presidency (Trump said that, too, incidentally. He was right.) So, I decided to test my pet theory about the CPAC straw poll. I asked if she had voted in it. She said, “Yes.” There were 4-5 conservatives sitting around her. I asked them if they’d voted. They all said, “No.” And there you go. Roughly 1/3 of the CPAC attendees vote in the straw poll. Meanwhile, my guess is that 90% of the Libertarian Ron Paul supporters voted. Moreover, keep in mind that there were a lot of conservative candidates and only two Libertarian candidates: Paul and Gary Johnson. So, was Paul fated to win from the get-go? Yeah, pretty much — and that’s not so bad. Better Paul than Mitt Romney, who would need a complete Obama collapse to win and could actually benefit from winning the CPAC straw poll. Other than a joke candidate, we really couldn’t do much worse than Mitt in 2012 as a nominee. Dead. Dog. Loser.

After the straw poll results were announced, West hit the stage, gave a solid wrap-up and we called it a conference. After that, a few of us headed out for Thai food (Also, a first for me. Also good. Mmmmmmmm, spicy!).

Susannah and Chris Fleetwood
Susannah and Chris Fleetwood

Aaron Marks and Abby Alger
Aaron Marks and Abby Alger

After dinner, I took a cab back to the hotel and slept like a rock until some idiot pulled a fire alarm at 3 AM. But that is a story for another day.

This turned out to be an absolutely FANTASTIC CPAC. It was the most heavily attended CPAC ever, I saw more political rock stars at the events than ever before, and honestly, I had more fun than I’ve ever had at a CPAC before. Kudos to Lisa De Pasquale for putting the whole show together and Tabitha Hale from Freedomworks for making bloggers’ row hum. If you didn’t make it this year, just remember there’s always 2012!

You can see part 1 of 2 here.

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