On Thursday, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) kicked off in Washington DC. CPAC 2012 is drawing more than 11,000 attendees over the course of the weekend, a testament to conservative resolve to organize in 2012 to defeat President Obama.
Thursday’s agenda features a who’s who of Republican leaders. The event began with conservative kingmaker Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina followed by rising GOP star Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
Senator Rubio, who is widely considered the frontrunner for the Vice Presidential nod in 2012, fired up the packed ballroom taking aim at Obama’s failures. Perhaps his greatest bout of applause came when he passionately condemned the Obama Administration’s attacks on conscience rights. Rubio spoke out in defense of pro-life healthcare professionals who are faced to choose between their deeply held convictions and their jobs as a result of the pro-abortion Obama healthcare law.
Rubio called on CPAC attendees to rally together to defeat President Obama in 2012. He noted Obama remains respected as a good man and good father but his policies have made him “a terrible president.” Rubio received a standing ovation at the conclusion of his speech. It’s clear from the crowd’s reception that Rubio has the unique ability to unite conservatives of all stripes. He will certainly be one to watch in 2012 and in the future.
Following Rubio, Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Congressman Tom Graves of Georgia took the stage. While the panel focused on economic concerns, it reinforced the theme set by the previous speakers: Defeat President Obama.
Senator Ron Johnson got his loudest applause when he called on conservatives to be “relentless” in 2012 in their efforts to oust Obama. Johnson also emphasized that defeating Obama is not only about putting an end to his policy advances but about sending a message to the world about America’s future.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell addressed CPAC on Thursday to update the grassroots on current issues in the US Senate. Republicans in the Senate, under McConnell’s leadership, remain in the minority but have fought hard against the advances of the Obama Administration and Senate Democrats. McConnell noted the fight against Obamacare, including its assault on conscience rights. McConnell hammered Obama for his healthcare law and called on voters to hold the President accountable for it in November 2012. He exclaimed, “Senate Republicans want everyone to get a waiver from Obamacare” and that under his leadership, they will fight against the overreach of Obamacare through the courts and through legislation.
The Senate has been the body where landmark pro-life legislation like the repeal of Obamacare and the defunding of Planned Parenthood have gone down in defeat. Winning the Senate in 2012 will be crucial for the passage of meaningful pro-life legislation. Bills like the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act and the Protect Life Act are essentially dead on arrival without a pro-life majority in Senate. In addition, a pro-life Senate majority will be crucial in ensuring judicial nominations, like those to the Supreme Court, are going to take a strict constructionist view of the Constitution and rule against Roe vs. Wade.
Representative Steve King of Iowa kept the energy going when he called for the next President to sign the repeal of Obamacare right on the podium on Inauguration Day. King made it clear that the number one priority of the next President must be undoing Obamacare. The law, as pro-life advocates have warned, contains massive abortion funding and poses a threat to the elderly and those with disabilities through medical rationing.
Former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann gave Marco Rubio a run for his money in terms of rallying the CPAC crowd. She did not let up in her sharp criticisms of President Obama. Echoing a theme from her presidential campaign, Bachmann called on grassroots conservatives to make Obama a one-term president.
Speaker of the House John Boehner took the stage to give an update on the political fights in the US House. He received a warm welcome from CPAC attendees. In his remarks he laid out the vision for a post-Obama America. In this vision, he specifically mentioned the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act as law of the land. He also spent considerable time laying out the commitment among House Republicans to take down Obamacare. Boehner unequivocally stated that the recent Obama Administration mandates on conscience rights would not stand.
There is more to come at CPAC 2012 but it is clear from the get-go that there is a tangible excitement among conservatives to take on President Obama. While Republicans have yet to settle on a presidential candidate, there is no doubt when it comes to defeating Obama, they could not be more unified.