For a couple of hours at the Conservative Political Action Conference this afternoon, the presidential primary seemed to lurch into a time warp.
There was Michele Bachmann bringing conservatives to their feet as she blamed President Obama for hurting the country and abandoning Israel.
“Israel has rarely enjoyed President Obama’s support,” she said to a cheering crowd.
And there was Rick Perry, drawing a full house to hear him repeatedly slam the White House for a “war on faith.”
“If it’s halftime in America,” Perry said to chuckles. “I’m fearful of what the final score is going to be if we start the second half with this president as quarterback.”
Bachmann and Perry met similar fates in the Republican primaries last month. Bachmann dropped out of the race after a dismal performance in the Iowa caucus, and Perry called it quits after bottoming out in Iowa and New Hampshire.
But for many of the social conservatives at CPAC in Washington, the blast from the past was a bittersweet glimpse at what could have been had Bachmann and Perry managed to stay in the race.
”Now we have to make our choice, and it’s harder now, much harder,” said Betty Rose, a retired teacher from Marietta, Ohio.
Many conservatives admire Bachmann and Perry for their plainspoken commitment on religious matters. Both of them abhorred Obama’s recent contraception mandate on religious groups, and Bachmann went as far as to deride those who say the United States is not ”a Judeo-Christian nation.”
”I’m here to say we are,” Bachmann said to wild cheers.
”She’s the finest woman that the country’s ever produced,” said Joseph Patrina, an author from Simsbury, Conn., who said he had been musing with others in the audience about why Bachmann quit. “They speak to the dream of an American to be self-created.”
Brad Miller, a policy director at CitizenLink, a tax-exempt nonprofit organization affiliated with Focus on the Family, said conservatives are “looking for an aggregation of all the candidates.”
Perry’s speech to the conservative movement had populist tones, with scattered references to “Main Street” and cleaning up corruption. His listeners responded gleefully when he critiqued ”ObamaCare” and told them that “nowhere in the Constitution does it say health care should be run by the federal government.”
It was similar to what Perry had said on the stump and at the beginning of his speech about wanting to beat Obama himself in the general election.
”Then the people of Iowa and New Hampshire had a different idea,” Perry said, ruefully.