First day of Twitter complete, and for those of you not yet online with me there, here are the highlights of today’s events at Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition event. Although billed as a workshop of sorts, it was more of a traditional conference, with a stellar GOP speaker list and breakout panel sessions. Tea Party presence was high, and indeed this is the evangelical Christian base that Reed knows so well. He’s back, and the turnout today shows it. Most major GOP candidates and would-be’s were here to recite the social conservative/tea party mantra: Cut spending, stop abortion, stop gay marriage, support Israel without reservation. Pulsing through it all was an idealized worship of the founding period, Ronald Reagan, and the need to “take our country back.”
The full event is available on C-SPAN streaming.
Beyond that formula, employed by virtually every participant, these items:
-Michelle Bachman brought the house down. Pawlenty, Huntsman, and Romney paled by comparison. Her speech was effective, energetic, and improved from past performances. She’s for real, and she’s getting much better at this. These are her people, the base. She’s running. As Jon Stewart would say, she could win the Republic of Base-istan.
-The Donald. Still a player, and still the (would be) candidate with cojones. Did not mention 3rd party run tonight, but still…why was he here? The speech was funny and interesting. The only participant I heard today to go off script; he pivoted from applause lines about the deficit and spending on Iraq to Eric Cantor’s statements about not paying for Tornado relief without budget offsets. Trump finds this unconscionable. Cantor can do no evil with this crowd. Trump does not care. When the pins started to drop he pivoted to stand-with-Israel. All good. Suggests forged birth certificate and uses first reference to “Barack Hussein Obama” I’ve heard in a while.
-Best Reagan reference. HuffPo and I were both keeping Reagan tallies. Results differ as it got hard to keep track. But as to the best invocation, Huntsman scores for odd, Pawlenty for vivid. Huntsman quoted Reagan (from the new book The Notes) who quoted Sam Adams who in turn was quoting an unnamed French philosopher, probably Montesquieu. You follow? Pawlenty, alternatively, paints the picture of the 1981 inauguration. Cloudy skies. Reagan places hand on mother’s Bible. Clouds part. Ray of sunlight on Reagan’s shoulders. T-Paw begins reciting the scriptural passage on the opened page. The audience begins reciting along with him. Am I at church? (Also this crossed my mind when Clarence Thomas’ wife Ginni, who was announcing the end of the nation as we know it in a panel on the tea party, asked all present to turn to someone beside them and thank them for saving our country. This was the Catholic version, of course. Awkward.)
-Scheduling fail of the day: Mitt Romney introduced by his wife following a bravado barnstormer by right wing legal crusader Jay Sekulow. Sekulow, who is in front of the Supreme Court all the time on behalf of his side’s causes, knows how to rouse and audience. It was all Israel and abortion all the time, and he was in full voice, raising a rallying cry over repeated standing ovations and cheers. Enter Ann Romney. Poor Ann Romney. Who declared, politely, that Barack Obama had better watch out because “we are going to get him.” Her final line, introducing hubby: “It’s up to you, sweetie!” Why, why did they do this to her? Mitt was Mitt, soldiering through gladly but like Huntsman and Pawlenty seeming more as though he was there to recite the rite than to connect. I told Sekulow later that there were probably a lot of people in that room who wish he was running.
-Mitt, Mitt, Mitt. Attempts to reinvent self also failing. To connect with the social conservative base, rhetorical solution is clear: Add adjective “moral” to issues. Moral deficit crisis. Moral jobs crisis. And in the speechwriting fail of the night, the oddest folksy-family tale I’ve ever heard. Talking about his dad, another repeated GOP presidential contender, he described George Romney’s carpenter skills, specifically the ability to stuff his mouth full of nails and spit them out one at a time, point first, into lathe boards, and then hammer them in. People in the crowd were looking at each other confused. Mitt, we know you’re trying. But spitting nails? I saw this is a bad horror movie recently. Who on earth is writing this man’s speeches?
-Frank Luntz was a no show. I was gravely disappointed at missing the chance to hear the old boss advise these good folks. I informed several members of the press and crowd around me that they should not be surprised at a Luntz late appearance, or non-appearance. “What was it like working for him?” “Often like this.” Grover Norquist reported no knowledge of his pal’s whereabouts. Grover Norquist not seen smiling all day. Grover Norquist refers to Republicans who vote for tax increases as rat heads floating in Coke bottles. Soldier on, Brother Grover. Perhaps though you are not the smiling optimistic messenger Ralph Reed kept telling the audience the conservative movement needs.
-George Allen says he’s sorry for Macaca. First time. “And during my last campaign, I never should have singled out that young man working for my opponent, calling him a name. He was just doing his job. I was wrong to do that to him.” He went on further. I was genuinely struck; I’ve heard plenty of phony apologies from pols and this was not one of them. He said he’s had five years to reflect. He’s right. His demeanor seemed more seasoned overall. I was far more impressed by this George Allen (and not just because of the apology) than the Allen I cheered Jim Webb on against.
-John Boehner gets tearyeyed, again. Right on cue. Talking about his high school football coach and the greatness of America. Really? Really??? Yup, really.
Signing off, with sore hands from all this Twittering.
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