While most cameras are fixed on the speakers and big-names at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, the NewsHour took a look at the volunteers, activists and conference attendees, the people having conversations about the future of the Republican Party.
Leading up to this year’s CPAC, an annual gathering that draws some of the biggest names and crowds of the conservative movement, much was made of the need for the Republican party to broaden its appeal to younger voters. In this behind the scenes look, you can see the focused effort to reach out to the growing millennial generation and ignite a conversation among young Republicans.
Bonnie Kristian, a representative of Young Americans For Liberty, identified Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky as a Republican who is channeling the sentiments of younger conservatives.
“We found, especially among our membership, that young people are really excited after Senator Paul’s filibuster. They really like his message about civil liberties and kind of the new direction he’s creating for the GOP,” Kristian said.
The group’s free “Stand With Rand” T-shirts, a riff on Paul’s 13-hour standing filibuster, was one of the most popular items at the conference, with all 1,000 shirts getting snagged in the first hour.
A few booths over, Evan Feinberg, president of the organization Generation Opportunity, attracted young conference-goers with a basketball shooting game and a message on getting millennials jobs opportunities. These activists, many of whom are in college, are a central part of the effort to broaden the GOP’s appeal.
On stage, younger lawmakers like Paul, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida championed a new agenda for the party on issues like foreign policy, education and outreach. Many of these prominent Republicans — also considered frontrunners for the 2016 presidential nomination — were buoyed in part by the support of energetic, young Republicans.
James Hercher contributed to this report.
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