Like many of you, I have been watching CPAC’s conference from the convenience of my home, availing myself of C-SPAN’s superb wall-to-wall coverage. It proves to be somewhat easier than going there, and finding only that one is forced to watch the event in hallway monitors. It’s hard to get into a session when there are more than 10,000 people in attendance.
The last hour Mitt Romney received warm support and applause from what looked on TV to be a largely young crowd—proof that today’s movement is made up of young and idealistic conservatives, not the unrepresentative minority of activists who make up OWS.
What Mitt Romney achieved in his speech is to prove to the conservative confab that his credentials and outlook as a conservative are second to none. Under assault from Newt Gingrich — who regularly calls him a “Massachusetts liberal” and worse — Romney accomplished what he had to do, without mentioning either Gingrich’s or Santorum’s name, referring only in passing to the other candidates seeking CPAC’s support.
He told the audience: “I happen to be the only candidate in this race, Republican or Democrat, who has never worked a day in Washington. I don’t have old scores to settle or decades of cloakroom deals that I have to defend.” Mentioning the famous Obama statement that this opposition “clings to their guns and religion,” Romney responded that “We are also proud to cling to our Constitution.”
He continued on to note his seriousness about slimming down the size of government, being fiscally conservative, and doing what he did in business — “balancing budget; eliminating waste, and…keeping as far away from government as humanly possible. I did some of the very things conservatism is designed for- I started new businesses and turned around broken ones.”
Without mentioning Rick Santorum’s name — at a moment when Santorum is his main challenger — Romney sought to convince the audience that he too is a movement social conservative. He cited his effort as governor of Massachusetts to oppose same-sex marriage, barring out-of-state gay couples from marrying there. “We fought hard,” Romney said, and “prevented Massachusetts from becoming the as Vegas of gay marriage.” He vowed that as president, he would support and defend the Defense of Marriage Act, and would “fight for an amendment that defines marriage as a relation between one man and one woman.”
The essence of his presentation was to depict himself not as the caricature portrayed by Newt Gingrich, but as a “severely conservative Republican governor.”
An hour earlier, CPAC also heard from the always charming and humorous Ann Coulter, who reiterated her position as a firm Romney champion. Coulter, for those who have seen her at previous CPAC or other conservative venues, is a favorite of conservative young people. She is always sharp and clever, if sometimes over the top, as when today she mentioned that Bill Clinton showed expertise by “ejaculating on White House interns.” But the heart of her speech was to try and convince the audience that since Chris Christie did not heed her calls to be the nominee — “He doesn’t even answer my phone calls,” she said — that the choice of the Republican Party has to be Mitt Romney.
Coulter mentioned only Newt Gingrich by name, obviously not wanting to inflame the base by attacking the man some say is the current front-runner, Rick Santorum. She told them:
You know how [Democrats] are going to run against our candidate, because it is the only way that they run against any Republican: Call them dumb or stupid. And there is one presidential candidate we have right now who frustrates both of those. That is Mitt Romney. You can’t call him dumb. You can’t call him crazy. You can call him square, and that seems to be what a lot of right-wingers don’t like about him.
You ask them, “What is it?” Well, he’s kind of a Ken doll, sort of stiff. I think we have had enough of hip. Hip has nearly wrecked the country. Let’s try square for a while.
Turning to the audience for questions, one woman- obviously a skeptic-asked Coulter why they should trust Romney, since his own health care program in Massachusetts was similar in content. Coulter answered that Romney was firm that on day one he would repeal ObamaCare, and quipped: “If you can’t believe that, you might as well speculate: What if Obama starts reading Milton Friedman and becomes a free marketer? I guess it could happen,” she sarcastically noted.
She also reminded the audience that of all the candidates, he alone had the most tough and strongest position on illegal immigration, the second-most important issue for conservatives. If the issue was not faced, she pointed out, all of America would go the way of California, where Democrats always won.
“This is the future of the country,” she admonished the audience, “This is no time to be, ‘Oh, try this.’”
Her speech was a forthright and brave one to make in front of an audience many believed supported Santorum or Gingrich, and many of course backing Ron Paul as well. By sticking firmly to the point she has made in previous columns, such as one she headed “Re-Elect Obama:Support Newt!,” Coulter showed that she was not shy in making her argument as firmly as possible in front of many she may have suspected to be hostile.
It was a good afternoon for Coulter, and especially for Mitt Romney.