CPAC Panel: How conservatives win in 2016

Yesterday at CPAC, I intended to look around for some interviews and keep an eye on the speeches, but had nothing else on the agenda — until about halfway through the day. Katie Pavlich needed to leave early, but had a commitment to do a panel on the main stage in the later afternoon. Since my flight out was Sunday, I suggested that I could fill in for her, and the CPAC organizers were kind enough to allow us to swap. The panel turned out to be “Tanned, Rested, and Ready: Do Conservatives Have What It Takes to Win in 2016?” It also turned out to be the last event of CPAC other than the announcement of the straw poll results, and ended up being one of the longest events.

It was a fine topic, and my fellow panelists (Matt Schlapp of ACU, Ned Ryun of American Majority, and Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots) and I found the nearly-full crowd still fully engaged … as is obvious from the video. Curiously, the candidate that drew the greatest response was Jeb Bush, and not in a good way; when we mentioned Bush, boos and catcalls immediately erupted. It’s not a direct result of any misstep by Bush in his CPAC address, but more the problem that I’ve pointed out for over two months, ever since Bush got in the race. He’s not relevant to today’s conservative movement.

In the panel discussion, I said that the 2016 election will give Republicans a choice in the primary between the Old Guard and the New Guard — a choice between a focus on the future or a nostalgia tour of our past. And as Ted Cruz said earlier in the week, if voters have to choose between Bush nostalgia and Clinton nostalgia, they’ll choose the latter every time:

It’s a lengthy video as the panel ran well over its allotted time, but it’s worth watching in its entirety. My colleagues on stage have excellent insight into what the grassroots and RNC need to do to ensure conservative success. I’d like to emphasize one particular point I make later, though, which is that conservatives and Republicans have to sell hope rather than despair. We get too much of the latter as a consequence of having to oppose the Obama administration’s incompetencies and abuses of power, but the 2016 election gives us an opportunity to make the case for how conservative principles and reduced government will produce vast improvement for Americans over the next four years. If we’re tanned and rested (well, some of us are), then we should be ready to give voters plenty of positive reasons to put aside a third Barack Obama term in the guise of Hillary Clinton — and more to the point, sell voters on how the Republican candidate will be a President focused on a better future.

Note: I’m traveling today and may have my Sunday Reflection up later, if possible.