During this CPAC I had a couple of wonderful opportunities to sit down and spend some enjoyable, non-work hours time with our good friend and award winning journalist Andrew Malcolm of Investors Business Daily. (Trust me, he’s every bit as engaging and entertaining over a good steak as he is during political interviews.) But now that we’re both back to the office, Andrew has compiled a list of the main takeaways from the annual conservative conference. I’ll include the summary and a few other choice bits, balanced against my own observations.

Themes: Moderate is out. Conservative is in. Washington is bad. Flyover country is good. Hillary will have to work harder than she thinks to separate herself from what’s-his-name on the golf course. Plus she’s got some overweight baggage of her own to check, starting with Benghazi, fomenting the ill-considered Libyan war and disastrous fallout and, as always with the Clintons, taking in tons of money from anyone. They’re not dead broke, by the way.

It was wise for John Boehner and Mitch McConnell to skip this year’s sessions. They drew almost as much criticism as Democrats for not yet going to the mat over halting Obama’s illegal illegal alien ploys.

Despite the anti-Washington, anti-Congress fervor, Senators Cruz and Paul plow ahead with their efforts. The lazy D.C. media will go to Capitol Hill for stories much more often than Madison or Austin, skewing impressions of the horse race.

All true, and very much so on the topic of Boehner and McConnell. Given the mood around the place when discussions of DHS funding and executive amnesty arose on the floor and at the bar, the reception that Jeb Bush received would probably have been viewed as warm and congenial compared to what the House and Senate leadership would have gotten if they took the stage. As for Hillary, I believe Andrew penned this column before the news about her lack of an email address broke. The mood at CPAC about Hillary was pretty much the opposite of the worry we’ve heard privately from party leaders as recently as three months ago. The attendees I spoke to were in large part more optimistic than ever about the GOP’s chances of beating her. With these recent revelations I would only expect that trend to continue in a positive direction.

Andrew has some kind words for Ted Cruz, but has a few concerns as well.

Cruz’ and Paul’s fans are intense, vocal and dedicated. Cruz is a compelling speaker, strolling the stage without notes, excoriating RINOs and calling for a clear conservative revolution.

But the fifth or sixth time you hear him speak, his laugh and applause lines sound too practiced, rehearsed. Maybe he didn’t bus in as many supporters as Paul or Bush, but the CPAC Cruz crowd was nowhere near as enthusiastic as last year.

I’m not so sure about that. I think that Cruz was pretty much as on point as he normally is, but he’s no longer the surprising outsider he was a year to two back. This was CPAC after all, and I doubt there was anyone there who wasn’t already very familiar with Cruz. He put on a great performance and was well received.. it just wasn’t anything really new.

Andrew thinks Rand Paul is heading for troubled waters as the nation’s eyes focus more and more on trouble abroad. Probably a fair point, but Rand can never be counted out. In a more general sense, Andrew seems to feel that governors will have the upper hand over Senators, which is a fair and frequently heard comment, but some of the governors are doing their share of stumbling as well, starting with Jeb Bush.

Malcolm offers one dark horse to watch for.

Watch Fiorina. Her story (one-time secretary to high-powered CEO) is compelling. Her rhetoric is fresh and pointed. “Women are not a special interest group. We are now the majority!” On Hillary: “She tweets about equal rights for women but takes millions from foreign governments that deny women the most basic rights.”

As I wrote while I was down there, Carly Fiorina may turn out to be one of the big stories of the conference. Lots of analysts were counting her out early and saying that she was running for Vice President, but she was extremely impressive in her various appearances at the Gaylord this weekend. Her message is spot on, her delivery was sharp and she brings a few things to the table which her male counterparts can’t match in a battle with Clinton. She’s an exciting candidate.

Andrew also notes that Ben Carson is “a nice guy” and Donald Trump is “a joke.” I’ll just leave those two observations here to stand on their own. You can read the rest of his observations at the link.