Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose socially moderate positions on gay rights and abortion counter those of many conservatives, pleaded, "Ronald Reagan used to say, 'My 80 percent ally is not my 20 percent enemy'," asking a generally receptive crowd to look more to his leadership and less to issues they may not have in common before continuing, "We all don't see eye to eye on everything. You and I have a lot of common beliefs that are the same and we have some that are different…we all don't agree on everything. I don't agree with myself on everything."
Taking a thinly veiled swipe at Giuliani, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee retorted, "Frankly, I'm a little disappointed when I hear people say, 'I hate abortion but I don't believe we ought to regulate it'," referring to Giuliani's counter conservative positions on abortion.
Making a strong play for the Reagan mantle, Huckabee said the crowd may be looking at the current field of Republican candidates and wondering, "Dude, where's my candidate?"
Huckabee assured the Reaganites that he's their man -- signing an anti-tax pledge and painting his positions in stark opposition to not only the rest of the Republican field but also potential Democratic presidential nominee and GOP nemesis Senator Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.
Longshot candidate Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., endorsed Reagan's "trust but verify" and fellow outside contender Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., stoked the friendly crowd by excoriating his top-tier rivals for being "hyphenated conservatives", proclaiming, "The only adjective I will accept on the word 'conservative,' for me, is the word 'unapologetic'."
Tancredo also told the audience they "shouldn't be surprised at the host of conservative converts," but asserting, "conversion happens on the road to Damascus, not the road to Des Moines."
Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., who skipped this year's conservative forum, was one of three former Vietnam POWs in attendance at their 1974 conference, according to Time magazine, who was introduced to the conference by Reagan.
A quarter of a century later, Nancy Reagan picked McCain to accept the American Conservative Union's Conservative of the Century Award on behalf of her husband, who was unable to attend due to his struggle with Alzheimer's.