Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., addresses CPAC on Thursday. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.
The largest annual gathering of conservatives got underway Thursday as more than 11,000 activists flocked to Washington to size up their potential choices for the 2012 Republican nomination.
Among those who addressed the crowd on the first day of the Conservative Political Action Conference were former House speaker Newt Gingrich, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.
Gingrich discussed his energy policy, which includes replacing the Environmental Protection Agency with an entity that focuses less on regulation and instead protects “both the environment and the economy.”
Rep. Bachmann, a favorite of the Tea Party movement, said it was not enough for conservatives to focus just on fiscal issues. She called on the crowd to “affirm our time-tested winning platform that rests equally” on all three legs of the Republican stool, which include fiscal, social and national security issues.
Santorum, meanwhile, warned Republicans against overlooking social issues. “There are some who believe that that third leg of the stool is an optional one, the one that there needs to be some sort of truce about. I don’t know about you, if you start sawing away at a third leg of a three-legged stool, you’re not going to be very stable for very long,” Santorum said, in what was clearly a dig at Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who has called for a “truce” on social issues.
Santorum spoke with the NewsHour following his remarks and would not directly address whether calling for a truce made Gov. Daniels or any other GOP candidate unelectable in a primary.
“I think they’re just expressing a tactic. I don’t question their feeling on the issues. I think you’re going to find whoever enters the race and wins the Republican nomination is going to be strong on the issue of marriage and family and life. I don’t question that at all. I just think that it’s not an issue that tactically is smart for us to put sort of in the back of the bus,” Santorum said.
Looking forward to Friday, the speakers who will draw the most attention are former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney at 10:30 a.m., South Dakota Sen. John Thune at 1:30 p.m., former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty at 3 p.m., Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 3:30 p.m. and Gov. Daniels at 7:30 p.m.
Mark Halperin of Time Magazine scored excerpts of Romney’s speech, which sharply criticizes President Obama’s handling of the economy. “Fifteen million Americans are out of work. And millions and millions more can’t find the good paying jobs they long for and deserve. You’ve seen the heartbreaking photos and videos of the jobs fairs around the country, where thousands show up to stand in line all day just to have a chance to compete for a few job openings that probably aren’t as good as the job they held two years ago. These job fairs and unemployment lines are President Obama’s Hoovervilles. Make no mistake. This is a moral tragedy — a moral tragedy of epic proportion,” Romney is expected to say.
POLITICO’s Burns, meanwhile, has a preview of Pawlenty’s remarks, which brings attention to his conservative leadership in left-leaning Minnesota. “I’m from the state of McCarthy, Mondale, Humphrey, Wellstone and now — United States Sen. Al Franken. But we cut government in Minnesota, and if we can do it there, we can do it anywhere….I drew a line in the sand and said, ‘Absolutely not,'” the former governor is expected to say.
GIBBS’ LAST DAY
The last time Robert Gibbs left his political employer it turned out to be the single best decision of his career.
It was a little more than seven years ago when Gibbs quit Sen. John Kerry’s campaign in reaction to the firing of campaign manager Jim Jordan.
Shortly thereafter, Gibbs got hired for a far lower profile job as communications director for a Democratic candidate for Senate in Illinois.
The rest, as they say, is history. After more than 200 briefings, the White House press secretary will give his final set of carefully crafted answers on behalf of President Obama and the government of the United States.
Soon he will begin to give carefully crafted answers on behalf of Barack Obama, the candidate for re-election. But first he will go make some money on the lecture circuit and decompress from one of the hardest jobs in Washington.
Revealing some of the advice he has given to his successor, Jay Carney, the former journalist and spokesman for Vice President Joe Biden, Gibbs offered, “First and foremost, regardless of what you know and what you’re asked, your solemn obligation is to always tell the truth.”
Set your DVR’s for 12:15 p.m. ET for Gibbs’ final briefing room performance. Perhaps there will be a presidential drop-by on what will be a very newsy Friday due to the ongoing crisis in Egypt.
In the meantime, be sure to enjoy this great video compilation put together by POLITICO as a tribute to Gibbs.
$100 BILLION OR BUST
The feisty and forceful Republican freshmen who campaigned successfully on cutting government spending more than on any other issue in 2010 have made their presence felt to their leadership.
The huge class of new GOP members in the House have said that any spending plan that falls short of cutting $100 billion from President Obama’s budget request for the current fiscal year is unacceptable (as promised during the campaign in their “Pledge to America”).
That leaves the House Republican leadership, which has been on quite a learning curve this week, with the unenviable task of finding $100 billion in cuts — a figure initially proposed to cover a 12 month period — squeezed out of the remaining seven months of the fiscal year.
House Government Reform and Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., talked to Judy Woodruff about the rebellion from the ranks on the NewsHour last night.
“Well, I certainly think when many of my members, including some of these new members, are asking us to do better — we got to $100 billion in sensible cuts on an annualized basis. They’re saying they want those cuts in seven months, and we’re working together to try to find them. But remember, that’s the tip of the iceberg. We’ve got a $1.5 trillion deficit, so we’re only talking about one-fifteenth of the deficit being carved away. We’re going to have to do more with the president to really find ways to reduce the size of the burden of government,” he said.
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