Free Markets, Free People
Talking with conservative bloggers at CPAC
What an interesting day at the CPAC bloggers lounge. Why? Well, WiFi sucked (again), so it wasn’t that. And I heard a variety of speeches which kept me interested for about 5 minutes before I wanted to do something else (with one notable exception). No offense to the speakers or the speeches, but I’ve pretty much heard variations on most of the themes any number of times. I’m an old guy, remember?
Nope, the reason it was interesting was the opportunity I had to talk with a number of engaged and interested conservative bloggers and to get their opinions on certain questions I have. I decided I could listen to the speeches anytime, they’re even archived on line, but the opportunity to talk with this collection of distinguished bloggers doesn’t happen often.
I felt the place to find CPAC gold was (and is) in the blogger’s lounge.
I got around to 10 bloggers today and ask a series of questions based on my earlier post about the enthusiasm gap. Citing the PPP poll I essentially asked each if they thought it was real or just perceived.
Most thought that there was definitely an enthusiasm gap, but many of them attributed it to different things. Duane Lester wondered if perhaps “uninspired” would be a better descriptor than “unenthusiastic”. “Can you think of a single one [of the present candidates] that could pump up a Tea Party rally”, he asked? He felt that most voters were just not inspired by the field.
Brian Garst agreed that there was little enthusiasm for the field. Jeff Dunetz feels it’s a function of voters not yet knowing who they want. And Ed Morrissey agreed there was a lack of enthusiasm but felt it was pretty normal for a primary season.
Regardless of the reason, though, all agreed that enthusiasm, at least for now, is down among the GOP. Of course, party primaries are tricky beasts. There are also legions of voters who aren’t even engaged at this point and won’t be until late next year. And there are also a good percentage who are fine with letting others who do choose to vote in the primary pick their candidate.
More interesting to me though was the concern some of them voiced about the field. Again, remember, for the most part I’m talking with conservative activists who are political junkies. So they are definitely plugged in. And many of them aren’t pleased with the choices they’re being given. That best explains the enthusiasm gap to me.
I then asked if any of them had decided on or endorsed any of the current candidates? Surprisingly, of the 9 I talked to 4 1/2 had decided on Santorum. I’ll get to the half in a minute. The rest had not yet made a pick.
The one I’m characterizing as a half is Warner Todd Houston who hasn’t yet officially endorsed but is within a gnat’s eyelash of doing so, and his pick is Santorum.
So why Santorum? Jeff Dunetz posted his endorsement earlier today. He feels Santorum is the only candidate, of the three, who can articulate the Conservative vision. Ed Morrissey has also endorsed Santorum for a variety of reasons to include integrity, presents a clear contrast to Obama, is the most consistent Conservative and has run the most honorable campaign. I asked about the charges of Santorum being a “Big Government Conservative” and got mixed reactions to that with some acknowledging the charge and others not feeling that was really significant.
But surprisingly, at least to me, Santorum was the pick of those who had made one. Not a single person went with Gingrich, Paul or Romney. As Ed said, “Romney doesn’t speak ‘conservative’ very well.” And, well, Newt is Newt.
That brought me to my next question – “So, regardless of who wins the nomination, do you think the GOP faithful will coalesce behind them?” To a person they said yes (with the caveat that “yes” didn’t apply to Ron Paul) however there were some interesting “buts”.
For instance, Warner Todd Houston thought that if the nominee was Romney, the voters would turn out and do their duty but the possibility exists that the activists, such as bloggers, wouldn’t work very hard toward his election. That would mean far fewer posts than had their candidate gotten the nominee and probably less in defense of Romney in push back. In other words they wouldn’t engage at the level they might with a more conservative candidate. And of course that lack of support could hurt in a GOTV effort where the electorate doesn’t see the level of enthusiasm necessary to convince them of the necessity to vote.
Juliette Ochieng also believed that Republican voters would turn out but not enthusiastically, as did Brian Garst. Nice Deb was of the opinion that if Romney was the candidate, the possibility existed that some Conservative voters wouldn’t support him.
Doug Mataconis (the only libertarian in the group of bloggers interviewed – he and I essentially represent the libertarian contingent here) made an important point that I think should be remembered in all this talk about enthusiasm or lack thereof. As much as Republican voters may dislike this or that Republican primary candidate, they dislike Barack Obama even more. And one has to wonder, once the focus is turned on Obama and his record, if that will provide all the incentive necessary to make Republican voters enthusiastic enough for their candidate to win.
Duane Lester thinks it will. He feels that most people are broadly motivated to either seek pleasure or avoid pain. And when November comes around, they’re going to reason that they can avoid the most pain by voting against Barack Obama. It may not be the perfect election for the Republican candidate, and Republican voters would again find themselves voting as much against one candidate as for theirs. But, as mentioned, in this election, that may be motivation enough to carry the day.
I ask each of them to put on the forecasting hats on and tell me whether they think the economy will improve enough to help Obama’s re-election chances.
Most didn’t think it would, although Jeff Dunetz said he hoped the economy would improve, not for Obama’s sake, but for the rest of the country’s sake. The bloggers felt that while there may be some improvement, it probably wouldn’t be enough to give him a boost. However, many of them felt that the media would aid and abet the perception of improvement to a much higher degree than was real. Warner Todd Houston pointed out the recent unemployment numbers as an example, where the media hyped the percentage and the drop in the unemployment number but ignored the number of people who had dropped out of the labor force (1.2 million) which, of course, makes the unemployment percentage suspect.
Peter Ingemi quipped that while there may be some improvement, Obama “can’t repeal the business cycle” no matter how badly he’d like too. And there are other things upcoming that could effect the economy negatively. Taxes, new regulations, increasing gas prices and the sequestration cuts (which I will discuss at length in another post based on the discussion of sequestration as it applies to defense with Rep. McKeon).
All of those could slow down the economy just as it is starting to pick up a little speed. Then there are some possible external events which may have an impact. The unrest in the Middle East, Iran, and the possible collapse in Europe, although Ed Morrissey thinks that a European collapse would actually benefit Obama because he’d have something to blame the economic problems on. Given the propensity of this president to attempt to blame shift, I can’t disagree.
As with any session like this we wandered off in other areas briefly. Probably one of the most interesting remarks came from Juliette Ochieng concerning how we ever elected a president like Barack Obama - “we’ve been culturally ‘softened up’ to support an Obama.”
That struck me as the most succinct description of how this all happened over many years that I’ve heard. We’ve discussed many times how the left redefines words and concepts and stands them on their heads. How academia and government are filled with leftists. How the conversation has shifted from self-reliance and being proud about it to dependence and not being ashamed of it.
And this is what it has brought us:
The Heritage Foundation’s 2012 Index of Dependence on Government shows an alarming trend under the Obama Administration of a level of dependence on our government that has never been seen before. Today, a full 70 percent of the federal government’s budget goes to pay for housing, food, income, student aid, or other assistance, with recipients ranging from college students to retirees to welfare beneficiaries.
Another future post to discuss the Heritage Foundation’s findings in conjunction with Juliette’s premise is in the offing.
But back to the bloggers – finally I asked them who they saw in the future that might be, for lack of a better description, the 21st Century Ronald Reagan. To a person, they all mentioned Marco Rubio, the Senator from Florida. Others were mentioned as well, but Rubio was a consensus pick and usually the first name mentioned. Val Prieto of the great Cuban-American blog “Babalu” said he wanted to see Rubio get a little more seasoning (like being a governor? Please) but that Rubio was someone who could make Conservatives happy. Brian Garst said that Rubio is able to articulate the Conservative vision without all the fiery rhetoric. He makes it positive, non-threatening and desirable. And he did all three during his speech to CPAC today. He also held a session with CPAC bloggers today which you may want to check out.
Anyway, a very enlightening and enjoyable day at CPAC. More of the same tomorrow as I continue to check the temperature of the Conservative world.