NBC on CPAC: They may not have gotten what they wanted in Trump, but ...

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime, you just might find
You get what you need

As Donald Trump exited the CPAC stage on Friday morning, having won thunderous ovations for his speech, the auditorium’s sound system began playing a familiar song — “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” The Trump campaign began playing the Rolling Stones classic early in the campaign, and used it at the Republican convention as well. The NBC News analysis of Trump’s reception at the annual conservative conference comes closest to the reality I’ve seen here at CPAC from the traditional media by pointing out that theme, even if they don’t make the connection to the song itself:

The Conservative Political Action Conference was consumed last year by one burning question: Is Donald Trump a conservative?

This year, attendees have found an answer: Who cares? He’s doing what we want.

“Trump is not traditional anything, but the proof is in the pudding,” Mark Skogerboe, a 71-year-old pastor from South Dakota, told NBC News. “He’s a Johnny-come-lately on social issues, but he’s surrounding himself with traditional people.” …

While some attendees expressed reservations about Trump’s conservative credentials and personal qualities, nearly everyone who spoke to NBC News found reasons to root for his success. Even some activists who voted third party in November stressed that they were keeping an open mind.

“He says whatever is popular — but he has some good things to say,” Christian Henderson, an Ohio student who, like many young CPAC activists, was drawn into politics by Ron Paul and voted for Gary Johnson in November.

That choice of the Rolling Stones song struck me at first as intentionally cynical, if not somewhat ironic. By the time of the convention, the choice seemed more aspirational, intended to unify conservative skeptics and opponents behind his populist campaign. After the first month of Trump’s presidency, it could be more of an “I told you so” anthem to conservatives. Despite their misgivings about whether Trump was a liberal wolf in conservo-populist sheep’s clothing, the actual concrete steps taken by Trump in the first five weeks of his presidency have all but come from the playbook of the CPAC conservative consensus. Trump may have some concerned over his style, but style points don’t build border walls and deregulate on a wide scale, and style points don’t necessarily have anything to do with getting a solidly conservative jurist onto the Supreme Court.

There is little doubt of both the mood and the rationale reported by NBC. I have been coming to CPAC since 2005, and this is easily the most cheerful, unified group I’ve yet seen. One change in particular seems very notable; for the last several years, the Ron and Rand Paul faction have brought controversy and debate to CPAC. They’re nowhere to be seen this time, or if they’re here, they’ve joined in the same unity as the right-leaning think tanks and grassroots activists.

In a special column at CNN, I warn that there are bumpy times ahead — but right now, Trump has a unified movement ready to support him:

On Friday, he arrived at CPAC having proven that he could motivate enough support outside of those policy and media circles to gain the power to deliver on those conservative promises.

And he has connected not just with the gathered activists and policy wonks, but with voters in Middle America that felt left out and left behind. Indeed, he continues to demonstrate that his message and his agenda can energize and motivate conservatives and other voters, including those who just a year earlier in this same venue viewed his candidacy with considerable skepticism. Now they are excited about him. …

Factions may end up at odds again before next year’s CPAC on other potential fracture points, such as the tension between conservatives and populists on the deficits and on entitlement reform — the latter especially acute on the issue of Obamacare repeal.

For the moment, though, the focus remains on the potential for significant advances for the right — and Trump’s speech reminded conservatives at CPAC of those tantalizing possibilities.

At some point, the various factions on the Right will view the Rolling Stones song through another prism, as priorities move some agenda items to a back burner while pursuing others. Conservatives, populists, and party loyalists will find that they can’t always get what they want. The test will be whether they’re satisfied with getting what they need. For right now, the answer appears to be a resounding yes.