You have to wonder if, in fact, Huckabee did not attend in order to comply with the call for a boycott of CPAC by Liberty Counsel and other Christian extremists. Huckabee strongly disagrees with GOProud’s views on homosexuality, which was made obvious in his confrontation with John Stewart.
There was a clearly a more tolerant feel to the whole event. It was more of a gathering of like-minded folks who differ on some issues but ultimately want fiscal conservatism. Ron Paul supporters, libertarians, constitutionalists, Republicans, and independents all rubbed shoulders, inspiring each other.
Rather than “sucking the air out of the room” as Huckabee has claimed, the newly engaged tea party movement people gave the event the inspiration it needed.
Instead of attending CPAC, Huckabee attended a FairTax Rally in D.C. The FairTax people have been quite irked by the fact the Tea Party Patriots effort at developing an agenda – the Contract from America – has not included specific language calling for the so-called “fair tax.” Governor Huckabee is a strong supporter of the fair tax initiative and has been since his failed presidential run.
There are those who think Huckabee’s rant against CPAC was caused by the fact he fared so poorly in the infamous straw poll that saw Ron Paul win by a wide margin. Huckabee could not even best Palin in the vote. The former Alaska governor has never run for president and also blew off CPAC. It should be noted that only 2,400 people out of the 10,000 that attended voted in the poll, and of those only around 800 (or 33%) voted for Paul (with far fewer for Huckabee). He and his supporters were probably not happy about the fact attendees were less concerned about stopping gay marriage and “promoting traditional values” than they were with fiscal issues.
Ultimately, CPAC this year was not a “social conservative only” zone as Huckabee might have wanted it to be and it has been in the past. The tea party movement has focused the event’s collective mind on the fiscal issues that face us all and that need to be addressed.
That said, Huckabee’s CPAC remarks have not endeared him to many people who did attend the conference. In short, he felt the need to criticize something of which he knew little for the sake of a good sound bite.
Record numbers and the enthusiasm of the attendees will assuredly make it clear to the CPAC organizers that the current formula is the right one for success.