The Republican presidential candidates sound off at CPAC

by Craig Ogan

It’s good that Ron Paul, though not at the Conservative Political Action Conference 2012, is in the race making it four contenders. If not, commentary would start out with a snark about “The Three Amigos,” “The Three Stooges” or “Three Blind Mice.”

The three “whatevers” appeared on the same day at CPAC: Rick Santorum, morning; Mitt Romney, noon and Newt Gingrich, the cocktail hour.

Santorum, the eye opener: He is a serious man. No jokes or laugh lines (Reagan made people laugh, Sarah Palin does too). He’s serious about the spending and debt, but loses the edge since, as a Senator, he got earmarks for bridges, highways and museums of local arcania.

The social issues are his passion. He is pro-life and supports the Catholic Bishop’s opposition to Obama Administration’s ukase on the contraception free lunch.

No mention of any gay issues, though. Michelle Bachman denounced the decision on the unconstitutional nature of Proposition 8. Nothing from Santorum.

Mitt was a good CPAC lunch. He goes down well, doesn’t upset the stomach, no bad after taste, though a little bland. Mitt knows how to make an entrance. He keeps a professional distance—what Charles de Gaulle called the “Grandeur of Leadership”—no shout outs or finger points to familiar faces or self deprecating jokes.

He was wearing a beautiful blue suit. The guy looks like a president from a 1950’s movie.

Mitt’s years making speeches to stock holders, Olympic events and LDS firesides serve him well. The speech was well-written and delivered, but, he was governor of liberal Massachusetts, so he has some “splainin” to do.

Mitt’s an economic and business guy, his heart’s not in the social issues. Unlike Santorum and Newt, he’s had to actually do something, like sign or veto legislation.

So he talks abut Marriage. He says he limited same sex marriage to Massachusetts residents only so the state wouldn’t “become the Las Vegas of gay marriage.”

He says (as no other Republican at CPAC did) he’d support the Defense of Marriage Act, on which Obama has demurred. He’ll back an Amendment limiting marriage to “one man and one woman.” The applause was muted, in a “who cares” way.

Newt had his wife introduce him. Calista, the third wife, was courted while there was still a second Mrs. Gingrich and he was presiding over the impeachment of Bill Clinton for lying to a grand jury about a dalliance of his own.

Mitt should propose DOMA aimed at middle-age baby boomer politicians.

His speech was Newt-speak: “what I did, what I’ll do and what the Republican establishment is trying to do to me”, but he was out of gas. The crowd was ready to stand up and cheer, but he needed a “liberal journalist” to lob him a soft ball question to get him going. .

Each campaign tried to pack the house during their candidate’s speech.

  • Santorum’s crowd was big, boisterous and young—mostly people ages 20-25.
  • Romney’s crowd was big, reverent and appeared to have been bused in from Spanish Fork, Utah. The youth in his crowd had short hair cuts and white shirts, the girls modest dresses and skirts. HMMM?
  • Newt. No one lined up. It appears he’s out of gas and his campaign is nearly empty, too.

Romney won the straw poll; Santorum, second; way behind, Newt. Newt really needed to bring his A game and didn’t.

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