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Yuck it up, CPACers, the joke’s on you

Conservative activists spend three days giddily forecasting a return to power in 2012. History suggests otherwise

Salon- By Steve Kornacki
Saturday, Feb 20, 2010 18:20 EST

The man who assured us we’d be greeted as liberators in Iraq dropped in on this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference to make yet another prediction.

“I think that Barack Obama is going to be a one-term president,” Dick Cheney declared on Thursday.

The assembled righties roared – as they did whenever a speaker at the three-day conference forecasted a 2012 victory for the GOP. To watch CPAC was to realize that the right can be described in one word today: cocky. They have no doubt that Obama will be defeated in 2012; the only question is whether it’ll be Mitt, Sarah, Mike or Mitch replacing him.

You’ll excuse me if I rain on their parade, but there’s a source with just a little more credibility than Dick Cheney that would beg to differ: history.

The right is giddy because Obama’s approval rating, stratospheric just a year ago, now hovers around 50 percent and because his party, practically invincible in the 2008 and 2006 elections, is suddenly facing long odds in one key midterm election race after another. The nation’s political climate, indisputably, has been transformed since Obama took office, and Republicans are now on course for a strong year in 2010.

But this is where history comes in. Obama is actually the third president in the last 30 years – the “permanent campaign” era of American politics – to see his political fortunes crater in the second year of his administration. Bill Clinton in 1994 and Ronald Reagan in 1982 both endured the kind of political hell that Obama is now starting to taste (one-termer taunts and all) – and both bounced back to win lopsided re-election victories two years later.

The Clinton and Reagan comeback stories aren’t identical, but they do offer obvious cautionary lessons for those who would write off Obama today.

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CPAC 2010 Straw Poll RESULTS: Ron Paul Wins Big

Huff Po– Sam Stein

First Posted: 02-20-10 05:40 PM   |   Updated: 02-20-10 06:00 PM

In a strong reflection of just how strong his standing remains within the die-hard conservative community, Texas Republican and 2008 presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul won the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll on Saturday, earning nearly one-third (31 percent) of the entire vote. The crowd, however, booed heavily when the results were announced.

Paul was far and away the most widely anticipated speaker at the three-day conference, with his base of “Paulites” streaming into the main auditorium to hear him rail against government overreach and neoconservativism on Friday afternoon. In many respects, his win in the CPAC poll seemed pre-ordained — his band of followers having a well-earned reputation for flooding polls and forums like these.

What it portends for a possible 2012 presidential run is anyone’s guess. Paul had a similar cult-like following during the 2008 election, only to garner a relatively small chunk of the actual vote.

The other potential candidates who scored well and are more “mainstream” picks for the Republican nomination include former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who earned 22 percent of the vote, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin who came in third with seven percent. Romney had won the last three CPAC polls. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, another talked about 2012 aspirant, tied “undecided” for fourth place at six percent.

The results provide an interesting reflection as to where conservative hearts lie nearly three years before the next presidential elections take place. But with so much time before formal campaigning begins – and with no White House aspirant even officially announcing a bid- its best to resist the temptation to read too deeply into the numbers. For example, last year, disgraced South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford polled at four percent, while Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — no longer even on the straw poll — came in second at 14 percent.

Nevertheless, the CPAC poll can provide a nice boost (or, at the very least, attention) to prospective candidates. In 2007, Romney etched out a win over former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani by a margin of 21 percent to 17 percent. Sen. John McCain, who wound up winning the nomination, came in fifth with 12 percent of the vote.

Several of the candidates polled attended CPAC in the days, and even hours, ahead of the results being released. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was a keynote speaker on Saturday, preceded by former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (Penn.). Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty spoke on Friday followed by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Paul. Romney addressed the audience on Thursday. All others were not in attendance during the three-day affair.

Here are the official results:

Texas Rep. Ron Paul – 31 percent
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — 22 percent
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — 7 percent
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty – 6 percent
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich – 4 percent
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — 4 percent
Indiana Rep. Mike Pence – 5 percent
South Dakota Sen. John Thune — 2 percent
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels — 2 percent
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum — 2 percent
Mississippi Gov. Hailey Barbour – 1 percent
Other – 5 percent
Undecided – 6 percent

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Conservatives’ Real Agenda Revealed at CPAC Conference: Love of Torture and Hatred of Obama

Day One of this year’s conservafest included a surprise visit by torture advocate #1 Dick Cheney, and the crowd went wild for him.

February 19, 2010 |

At first, the opening roster of speakers at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference sounded a common theme: How many ways can conservatives — a term re-purposed to describe the Tea Party movement — threaten the establishment of the Republican Party? Given the exuberant response of the CPAC crowd to those who expressed it, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had walked into a gathering of a coherent movement.

Then Dick Cheney, the former vice president, a guardian of the Republican establishment, took the stand in a surprise appearance, and the crowd went wild. When he teasingly said their reception had him thinking about running for office again, they cheered. When he immediately dashed that hope, their deflation was audible.

The speakers preceding the Cheney apparition brought the crowd to their feet decrying government spending and bailouts. The gathering had its own internal, if paranoid, logic. Yet when Cheney appeared, the profligacy and bailout schemes of the Bush administration seemed long forgotten. Never mind that George W. Bush, Cheney’s boss and protege, increased government spending more than any of the six presidents preceding him, including LBJ, according to Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center. (De Rugy, a former research analyst at the Cato Institute and former fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, continues: “In his last term in office, President Bush increased discretionary outlays by an estimated 48.6 percent. During his eight years in office, President Bush spent almost twice as much as his predecessor, President Clinton. Adjusted for inflation, in eight years, President Clinton increased the federal budget by 11 percent. In eight years, President Bush increased it by a whopping 104 percent.”)

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