by Mark Rhoads
I attended a dinner last night at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. I did not get there until about 5 pm after the speeches by Romney, McCain, and Ron Paul. There were several thousand people wearing the CPAC ID name tags but I was told only 500 could be admitted to the room where those speeches were made. The speeches were covered live by CSPAN, CNN, CNBC, and MSNBC. While in Virginia earlier in the day, I saw both the Romney and McCain speeches live on CNN. Both seemed to me to have a very positive message but of course McCain had the more difficult assignment of trying to make his points and still honestly acknowledge his mistakes and differences of opinion with some, but not all, of the conservatives attending.
All delegates that I talked to who were in the room thought the Romney speech was the best he ever made. The reception for McCain was at first formal, polite, and cool from some. He got a smattering of boos when he just mentioned the words "illegal immigration." But the rest of his speech, in the opinion of those who were in the room, got better and better as it went along to cover national security, the appointments of judges, making the Bush tax cuts permanent, and pro-life issues. By the end of the McCain speech, the applause was genuine and enthusiastic and more than just polite. I was impressed by the fact that so many college age students were attending the CPAC on scholarships. I suppose I saw about 2,000 people wandering around the very large lobby and halls on the first floor. In general, the delegates told me the CPAC was filled with very interesting speakers. George Will also spoke last night. President Bush speaks early this morning and the conference will end on Saturday.