This coming week, CPAC kicks off in the National Harbor in Maryland, just outside of D.C. This year Ed and I will be there bringing you as much of the action first hand as we can manage. The list of speakers is long and includes the majority of unofficially declared or highly likely 2016 GOP presidential candidates. On the first day alone there will be appearances by Walker, Jindal, Cruz, Christie, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson. On Friday we’ll see more of the big names (with the rather glaring exception of Huck) taking the stage, including Rand Paul, Rick Perry and Jeb Bush. (Hopefully that will include Rubio as well, but that’s not confirmed yet.)
But rather than just speeches this year, the American Conservative Union is offering the honored guests an option: you can deliver your scripted remarks as usual, shorten the presentation and take a few questions from the moderator, or scrap the speech entirely and just do a town hall style Q&A for your entire time on stage. Jeb Bush has opted for the third choice, leaving at least some of us to wonder what he’ll be saying in response to the obvious questions and how that will be received.
ACU spokesman Ian Walters confirmed that speakers will have 20 minutes in front of the crowd and have the choice of delivering remarks and taking questions, or devoting the entire time to a Q&A session.
While Bush is expected to outpace the potential field in fundraising, he faces significant skepticism from voters in the conservative base of the party who disagree with his calls to ease immigration laws and his support for the Common Core education standards…
Allowing a Q&A at CPAC is an initial advantage for Bush. At appearances in San Francisco, Detroit, and Chicago in the past two months, Bush has proven more engaging and comfortable while taking questions from a moderator as opposed to the traditional speeches he also delivered in each city. He also opted for the format earlier this month at an education summit that his foundation hosted in Florida.
What we don’t know yet is precisely how this is going to work. Who will the moderator be? And how will they determine which questions are asked? If the session turns out to be a bunch of softballs (unlikely, given our past experiences there) then there may be some unrest among the natives. But if things get down to the nitty gritty on the subjects where Bush has left conservatives shaking their heads, the audience response may turn out to be more of the story of the day than what the candidate actually says. I’m not too worried about the latter because CPAC audiences tend to be more polite and respectful than rowdy, and have traditionally given everyone a fair chance to say their piece.
But the fact remains that Jeb Bush has some history which will be under scrutiny if he wants widespread conservative support in his bid for the nomination. Somebody will have to ask some direct questions about his support for Common Core and find out where he stands on the question of balancing state and federal control over education issues. Obviously immigration reform would have to be addressed, and the crowd will expect him take a position once and for all as to where he stands on not only the President’s executive amnesty program, but exactly what he thinks “comprehensive immigration reform” would look like if he were president.
With luck you’ll know about it here as soon as he’s done speaking, as we should have multiple people from Hot Air and Townhall on hand to cover the events. Now if we can only manage to avoid catching the CPAC Plague we should be in good shape.