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CNN's Breaking CPAC Coverage: 'Conservatives Name Drop Ocasio-Cortez'

OXON HILL, Md. — As thousands of conservatives met for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Friday to hear Vice President Mike Pence speak, CNN zeroed in the real story: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Analysts went on to describe the difficulties Democrats face as Ocasio-Cortez drives the party farther to the Left, making it likely Democrats will lose the center.

The breaking news chyron read: "Conservatives Name Drop Ocasio-Cortez at CPAC" as if it were unnatural for conservatives to be pushing back against the self-declared democratic socialist and her impossible Green New Deal.

"Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a favorite, as in favorite target at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference. And it’s not just CPAC. Go to a conservative website or cable channel and you’ll hear a lot about Ocasio-Cortez’s ideas," CNN's John King began. He referenced a Washington Post chart showing that only Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) beats Ocasio-Cortez in mentions on Fox News.

Manu Raju, senior congressional correspondent for CNN, warned that Ocasio-Cortez's celebrity may cost the Democrats in 2020.

"She has views that are outside of the mainstream of the traditional Democratic Party," Raju said. "She is driving the conversation in ways that other Democrats cannot given just her legion of Twitter followers and everything she says and the focus that is on her. The challenges for the Democratic leadership is making sure that base of the party, that element of the caucus, particularly [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi, does not go to war with the more moderate members of her caucus to ensure that they can keep the majority in 2020."

Raju noted that Democrats won in 2018 because they ran moderate candidates against vulnerable Republicans. The CNN correspondent predicted that Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez are "going to collide."

Lisa Lerer, national political reporter at The New York Times, praised Ocasio-Cortez for being "very strategic about how she used the celebrity that came out of her House race, and she’s definitely become, as you point out, a pace leader for the Democratic Party." She warned, however, that Ocasio-Cortez might not succeed if she tries to "encourage primary challenges" against moderate Democrats.

Catherine Lucey, a White House reporter for the Associated Press, finally brought the discussion back to conservatives, noting that "the efforts by Republicans and Trump and the conversation about Cortez is also about a broader effort of targeting socialism going into 2020. You’ve heard this from the president, you’ve heard this from conservative media and they seize on those policies."

Not one of CNN's panelists mentioned Vice President Mike Pence, who had just slammed socialism an hour before this discussion. Not one of them attempted to defend socialism or socialist policies, which Pence warned would lead to poverty and tyranny — as evidenced by Venezuela.

Indeed, the only mention of Pence in the program came when discussing former Vice President Joe Biden's remarks calling Pence a "nice guy."

Because conservatives had the misfortune to "name drop" Ocasio-Cortez at CPAC, CNN focused on Ocasio-Cortez and helped Democrats thread the needle in their party.

Olivier Knox, chief Washington correspondent at Sirius XM, noted that "Republicans have been using the socialist label forever ... what's new is you've got parts of the Democratic Party — electeds — who are embracing it."

Perhaps CNN should wonder whether embracing socialism is a problem, rather than debating how best the Democrats can take control of the government. Mike Pence just delivered a powerful speech on the issue. Rather than just mentioning how he "name dropped" Ocasio-Cortez, they could actually debate the substance of the vice president's remarks.

Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.